BETHLEHEM, NH – Toxics Action Center and Conservation Law Foundation issued a formal notice to Casella Waste Systems, Inc. that the two organizations intend to file a lawsuit against Casella for illegal discharges of pollutants from the Bethlehem Landfill into the Ammonoosuc River.
The notice alleges that a drainage channel collects leachate and contaminated groundwater from the Landfill and discharges it into the River, in violation of the Clean Water Act. Pollutants discharged include iron, manganese, and 1,4-dioxane (a suspected carcinogen). The notice also alleges that this discharge is causing or contributing to water quality violations in the Ammonoosuc River.
“This is not the first time we’ve seen a Casella landfill release contaminants into the environment, nor is it the first time Casella has failed to protect New England’s water resources,” said Woody Little of Toxics Action Center, “I am proud to stand with concerned residents who wish to protect public health and the environment. It is outrageous and unacceptable that Casella’s landfill is leaking into the Ammonoosuc River yet they are still trying to strongarm the Town into expanding the facility. Casella is not the good neighbor they claim to be.”
“The Bethlehem landfill is dumping dangerous pollutants into the Ammonoosuc River, one of New Hampshire’s treasured and iconic waterways,” said Tom Irwin, Director of Conservation Law Foundation New Hampshire. “Expanding this landfill is not only illegal but a menace to the health and wellbeing of North Country residents living in its shadows. It is time to stop expanding toxic landfills and start protecting communities by reducing waste at its source through recycling and other efforts.”
The Bethlehem Landfill is operated by Casella and its subsidiaries, New England Waste Services, Inc., and North Country Environmental Services, Inc. (the owner of the Landfill). Casella, one of the largest waste collection firms in the Northeast, is currently seeking authority to expand the size of the Landfill in Bethlehem through a Zoning Article and an Article to instruct the Select Board to negotiate with Casella. Both articles will be voted on on Tuesday, March 13th. The Town rejected similar articles to allow expansion of the Landfill last year, but Casella would not accept the community’s decision.
Dean Knapton, a local business-owner and Toxics Action Center member, lives along the Ammonoosuc just six miles downstream of the landfill in Littleton, NH. “I’ve lived in this area for almost 40 years,” said Knapton. “I have a house 3 yards from the riverbank that I am going to put in a trust when I retire. It’s about time Casella cleaned up their mess, so my grandkids can enjoy the river like I have without putting their health in danger.” As a Littleton resident, Knapton cannot vote this Tuesday. “The landfill affects people downstream too. I hope this lawsuit will make the voices of people like me heard.”
Toxics Action Center member Kristina Zontini has been organizing with local citizens’ groups to stop any further landfill expansion, and is working to stop Casella at the ballot box this Tuesday. “For years, we’ve seen pictures of discolored sludge running into the river, and heard about high levels of pollutants. You don’t swim or fish down river from the landfill anymore,” said Zontini. “Not only has Casella been exploiting and dividing our community for decades, this ‘state of the art facility’ has also been threatening our health and natural resources.”
“Bethlehem’s greatest assets are its natural beauty, and rapidly growing outdoor recreation economy,” Zontini added. “That’s where our future is, not in a mountain of trash.”
Toxics Action Center is a non-profit organization that works side-by-side with communities throughout New England to prevent and clean up pollution at the local level. For more information, visit www.toxicsaction.org. Conservation Law Foundation is a non-profit organization that uses the law, science and the market to create solutions that preserve our natural resources, build healthy communities, and sustain a vibrant economy. For more information, visit clf.org. The groups are represented by the Boston-based, non-profit National Environmental Law Center, which represents citizen groups across the country in actions to enforce the nation’s environmental laws; and attorney David Nicholas of Newton, Massachusetts.
CLF experts are available for further comment.