A Trip “Up Top” with Afterthoughts

To the Editor:

And Neighbors,

Around our 150 year old barn in Bethlehem, NH, wood had accumulated: tired stockade fencing, rotted 8x8’s, punky planks, delaminated head boards, scraps of wood. It all needed to go. With too much to burn in our permitted fire pit, we loaded our flatbed trailer and drove to Casella’s NCES landfill early in June.

Expecting to enter at the usual drop off area, assuming we’d be weighed on a scale, unload in a designated area and then pay accordingly, my husband and I were surprised to be told we needed to drive “up top.” At the weigh station the attendant handed us hard hats (?!), florescent company safety vests, a walkie-talkie and instructions. I realized this was not what I had expected. We pulled up until a green light flashed, then proceeded to a STOP sign, while watching the huge MBI trash haulers maneuver. Over the radio static we listened for the all clear, “OK to GO UP.”

Our truck and trailer began the climb with spectacular views to our left. On our right was a huge berm of crushed rock with a bulldozer working at the blue sky horizon. Alongside green grass and clover covering Casella’s huge mountain of trash and garbage, we slowly circled up and around the back. Gulls glided above us as dust, noise and fowl odors grew exponentially. I felt heartsick and terrified at the same time. The top, coming into view, was an unbelievable sight—clearly dangerous for customers like us.

We were directed to back in parallel to the conveyor belt that was unloading a 22 wheel trash hauler. A bulldozer was simultaneously pushing the garbage and debris just past our tiny householders’ trailer. The experience was overwhelming and shocking. Acres of rotting garbage and trash stretched before us, accompanied by deafening noise and a nauseating stench. The air was a haze of particulate matter. A huge compactor was tamping down the trash and next to us dump trucks hauled and delivered their loads of sand to cover the rubbish.

We had been sent into harm’s way, protected by nothing more than ill-fitting hard hats. Yelling loudly to communicate, we unloaded as fast as possible and bounded into the cab of our truck to escape the thick air. I was shaking with anger at being sent into an active, hazardous work zone.

I could not wait to get home. My eyes and throat felt miserable and I wondered what we had inhaled. I felt concerned for the workers at the top in their machinery, hopeful they take effective safety precautions.

Two points in closing and some advice—

NO ONE but authorized workers should be allowed or directed into Casella’s active landfill work zone at the top of Mt Casella. I am astounded the company would assume the liability of sending folks like me into the hazards we observed.

EVERYONE in the North Country should attend a Casella tour to experience the operation at a safe distance—and learn how to minimize the amount of trash and garbage we all send to piles like this.

Right now Bethlehem, Whitefield, Carroll, Littleton, and Dalton are faced with the prospect of decades of further landfill operations by Casella in the Ammonoosuc River watershed and next to Forest Lake State Park. We all need to educate ourselves about the realities and damage that are predictable if a landfill is developed on the 1900 acres optioned in Dalton. We need to learn to rebut the stunning misinformation coming from the developer about the proposed dump.

Know this: there is absolutely NO landfill capacity shortage in NH—NH Director of Solid Waste Management, Mike Wimsatt, has testified repeatedly that we have plenty of permitted space for NH trash for decades to come in existing facilities. The only proponent of a new dump in Dalton is Casella, determined to truck millions of tons of out of state trash hundreds of miles, into the hills of the North Country. The resulting leachate effluent, tremendously toxic, will be released into our Merrimack River downstate. Who wins here?!

The Dalton landfill proposal has been consistently rejected in towns throughout our area. Please be part of the local action to end Casella’s operations here. Read the press and social media coverage. Keep up with the legislation in play and the permit applications, rebuttals and appeals that will be coming in the months ahead.

The quality of life we treasure here is under threat—our environment, public health, community life and economic vitality will be impacted for generations if this dump is built. If you care like I do, check out websites for North Country Alliance for Balanced Change and Save Forest Lake. Learn more and rouse your neighbors. Let’s stand up for the North Country.

Jody Blaney

Bethlehem, N. H.

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(1) comment

Jon Swan

You should see the photographs Mrs. Blaney took while atop Mt. Casella in Bethlehem! I don't think this is the tour most people get when taking the "state of the art" landfill tour from Casella. We do not want, nor need, this next to Forest Lake State Park. Join the fight! www.SaveForestLake.com

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