An open letter on the Bethlehem landfill
Editor’s note: The following are excerpts of a letter sent to Gov. John Lynch, Environmental Services Commissioner Thomas Burack and New Hampshire legislators.
I am writing to ask for your assistance in stopping Casella Waste Systems from bypassing local zoning laws and exploiting further the small beautiful town of Bethlehem. Casella likes to paint Bethlehem as the only town with which it has problems, this is the farthest thing from the truth. Nearly all towns doing business with Casella have contentious relationships with this predatory company.
Why would I call Casella predatory? Because they exploit our land, our environment and our laws for financial gain. By claiming their landfill as a “pollution-control facility,” Casella exploited a tax loophole that allowed them to pay only 85 percent of their property taxes. Recently the state Legislature recognized the inappropriate use of this loophole and now prohibits landfills from applying for it. In return, Casella sued the state.
There is documented evidence of Casella attaining stolen attorney-client documents from Bethlehem’s town hall. It is further documented that for three years Casella illegally dumped asbestos at their Bethlehem facility. In 2001, Casella built an incinerator to burn polluted water, even though Bethlehem’s zoning laws prohibit incinerators. How? Casella labeled it an evaporator, problem solved!
Casella has taken what was originally to be a 14-acre local landfill and turned it into a 51-acre mountain of trash smack in the center of the White Mountains.
Recently, Casella attorney Bryan Gould appeared on a local television show, “Political Chowder,” hosted by Arnie Arnesen. Gould claimed that Casella sought the 85 percent tax credit “as a matter of self-defense” against the town.
The facts are as follows: In 2001 Casella paid $7,122 in taxes, they then obtained a permit from DES to expand from 14 to 51 acres and the value of the landfill increased significantly, as did taxes. The fact is, for the past 10 years Casella has paid an average of $6,750 a year in taxes to Bethlehem, while at the same time making tens of millions by filling the town with trash, over 40 percent from out of state, 10-20 percent hazardous waste.
After three decades of battles, the courts have limited Casella to their current 51-acre site. Bethlehem fought hard for this restriction and has paid dearly to attain it. Now, in order to bypass this restriction, Casella is proposing to build a four-story berm wall around the perimeter of the 51 acre site and pile the trash higher in order to expand.
New Hampshire’s regulations on berms are lax or non-existent. As such, Casella plans to exploit New Hampshire and Bethlehem one more time. Casella’s intention, claiming that only the trash itself needs to comply with setback regulations, is to build the berms within a few feet or directly on their property boundaries in order to attain the capacity they crave.
Such a design has one purpose only, to circumvent Bethlehem’s zoning laws and allow a predatory, out-of-state company to make still more money, filling our pristine White Mountains largely with out-of-state trash. Casella’s proposal places the environment, economy and the principle of local control in jeopardy
I am writing to implore Governor Lynch, Commissioner Burack and all state legislators to take action and stop Casella once and for all. They have made millions at Bethlehem’s expense and they have proven the predatory and unethical nature of their business, it is time for them to close!