Dear Governor: Bethlehem needs your help

The following is the text of a letter sent to Gov. John Lynch by Seth Goldstein, a Bethlehem resident, an opponent of Casella Waste Systems’ plan to expand its landfill in the town:

Casella Waste Systems has begun a major offensive on its quest to expand its facility in Bethlehem. First, with the help of the (Attorney General’s) office, Casella walked away from a major environmental lawsuit unscathed. Second, they have submitted to (the Department of Environmental Services) revised plans for the construction of the largest reinforced berm in the state, despite health and environmental concerns. Third, a new citizens group comprised of Bethlehem residents that have accepted large amounts of cash from Casella in the past has been formed under yet another name (Concerned Citizens about Bethlehem) in order to promote the landfill’s agenda, against the wishes of a large majority of the town.

I am writing once again to ask for your assistance in stopping Casella. Attorney General (Kelly) Ayotte has failed the town by accepting a settlement that lets Casella walk away from a major environmental gaffe. For three years, Casella violated their permit by accepting asbestos at the Bethlehem facility.

The settlement AG Ayotte agreed to is an insult to those persons that were put at risk and very likely made ill. The residents of Bethlehem were given no consideration in this outcome, at all! We were given none of the proceeds from the meager settlement, more importantly, there is no remedy to address the health concerns of local residents and the facility was not forced to close for a gross violation of their operating permit.

At a time when Casella is proposing to excavate large portions of their Bethlehem facility in order to expand, Attorney General Ayotte admits, “buried asbestos does not pose a hazard unless disturbed.”

Casella does not know where the deadly asbestos is buried or how to identify the waste, as they claimed for years they could. It is very probable that Casella accepted toxic or carcinogenic material in countless other instances as well. This only happens to be the one time they were caught.

Casella has proven they cannot be trusted. How can the Department of Environmental Services now even consider a permit that will allow new exposure to carcinogenic or perhaps toxic material?

The settlement represents a gross disservice to the people of Bethlehem, the people who were harmed and the people that are threatened by the proposed expansion of the facility.

The damage has now been done. The terms of the settlement agreed to. It is my only hope that Casella’s conduct will be noted and that the unfairness of this settlement is recognized by you and (DES) Commissioner (Tom) Burack so that any new proposed expansion of the facility is stopped.

The attorney general has failed us completely. Any assistance that you as governor of New Hampshire can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Categories: Opinion