Waste management was front and center at the New Hampshire Legislature, with public hearings on extended producer responsibility and siting new landfills. Jan. 18 was a marathon of public hearings on landfills at the House Environment and Agriculture Committee. There was a public hearing on HB 1420. The bill would block any new landfill permits — including for Casella’s proposed landfill in the North Country town of Dalton, N.H. — until the state updates its solid waste plan, which is almost 20 years old. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services is concerned that, as written, the bill would stymie permits for all waste facilities, including transfer stations and composting processors, said Michael Wimsatt, the waste management division director at the agency.
The discussion also covered HB 1049, which would establish a committee to study siting criteria for landfills as well as ways to reduce waste streams, and by extension, the pressure to build and expand landfills. Finally, there was a public hearing on HB 1454 to prohibit the siting of a landfill at a site to protect groundwater as well as nearby lakes and rivers. The bill would prohibit landfills from being built within five years’ groundwater travel distance from surface water. NHDES identified several problems that might arise when implementing the bill. “Because of the complexity of the hydrology, it’s not an easy matter to figure out what that is,” Wimsatt said. And calculating it might require access to private property.
Interest in solid waste escalated after Casella Waste Systems proposed a new landfill near Forest Lake State Park in Dalton, sparking protests and controversy. NHDES, which licenses new landfills, requested more information by June after it received Casella’s first application. Landfill capacity in New Hampshire will not be a problem so long as landfills continue to be expanded or built, Wimsatt said.