Posted Mar 20, 2019 at 6:12 PMUpdated Mar 22, 2019 at 2:43 PM
New Hampshire’s House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill that would require much-needed additional steps to remediate the Coakley landfill.
House Bill 494, sponsored by Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, declares an “imminent hazard” and directs the state Department of Environmental Services to pursue an immediate remedy to remove or contain certain contaminants from the landfill.
This is another welcomed step by the Legislature to provide legal means to compel the Coakley Landfill Group to stop the contamination of ground and surface water around the Superfund cleanup site in Greenland and North Hampton.
It’s not just about Coakley though. It’s about putting in proper regulatory safeguards to deal with the growing problem of PFAS contamination.
Coakley landfill accepted waste from 1972 to 1982 and then incinerator waste until 1985. It was capped in 1998, yet contaminants are still being detected, with no end in sight.
The CLG, which is led by the city of Portsmouth, for years has refused to adjust the remediation plan following detection of PFAS and 1,4-dioxane at and from the site. Those chemicals were added in recent years as contaminants of emerging concern by the Environmental Protection Agency, which lists them as suspected carcinogens.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry lists myriad other serious potential health impacts from PFAS.
According to the EPA, PFAS and 1,4-dioxane do not break down, can spread over large distances and accumulate in the environment and humans. This renders ineffective the cap and natural attenuation remediation at Coakley, and evidence of the migration of contaminants from the landfill continues to grow.
Last fall, DES ordered CLG to provide drinking water treatment for a nearby house and the Breakfast Hill Golf Club. The order followed their respective wells testing above the state’s new ambient groundwater quality standard for 1,4-dioxane to .32 parts per billion.
Passage of HB 494 is another means to assure protections for the public health and environment. The bill passed overwhelmingly, 230 to 98. It will be referred to the Senate and the upper chamber should agree contamination from the Superfund site must stop.
HB 494′s language particularly cites the impact on Berry’s Brook, which has headwaters adjacent the landfill. Tests in 2016 of surface water from Berry’s Brook showed PFAS levels nearly three times the EPA’s permanent lifetime health advisory level for drinking water. The DES has stated the migration of contaminants from the groundwater at the Coakley landfill into Berry’s Brook is unacceptable and further protective action is necessary.
HB 494 establishes needed urgency. If passed by the Senate and signed into law by the governor, DES would have 30 days to pursue a means to provide additional removal or containment of contaminants entering the brook from the landfill “under the applicable consent decree involving the Coakley landfill.”
It further states that absent a written agreement or federal enforcement of an actual remedy, DES within 60 days would “file a petition for such a remedy through the available administrative or legal process with the highest likelihood of success for New Hampshire.”
Legal action and lawsuits may be unavoidable in this matter, but if that’s what it takes to get a remediation that deals with PFAS and 1.4-dioxane than that’s what it takes.