Fear vs. Fact

To the Editor:

Fear vs. Fact—Getting the Facts Straight about Cassella and Dalton—Just What Are the Facts?

I write concerning the misleading “Get the Facts” pamphlet that Casella Waste Management Systems has been circulating among the residents of Dalton. I am appalled by its half-truths, misrepresentation, disinformation, blatant falsehoods and fearmongering on the subject of zoning in Dalton.

Casella is a waste management company—a big one—that collects and buries waste, garbage, demolition and construction material. It also does some recycling and some conversion of waste to energy. As its web site reports, the stuff it buries in landfills is not just household garbage, but includes asbestos, PCBs, contaminated soils, sludges, ash and drill cuttings. SEE https://local.casella.com/landfill.

“Fact” #1. “Testing shows that groundwater and surface water from the site flow in the opposite direction AWAY from Forest Lake, Burns Pond and the Johns River. This statement is correct as far as it goes. What Casella does not say is that the surface water runs straight through our local watershed into Alder/Hatch Brook, then into the Ammonoosuc and finally into the Connecticut River, creating a swath of potential contamination far wider than simply Forest Lake or the North Country.

Casella says nothing about the greater threat to the lake: contamination by the feces from the birds and pollution by other scavengers that gather at a landfill. That they have conveniently omitted.

“Fact” #2. “Modern landfills, such as the one proposed for Dalton, are highly engineered facilities, designed and built to contain all materials using a double liner system….” If modern liners don’t leak, why use two? If the first leaks because of what’s in it, what is to keep the second from leaking as well? Is there data on the reliability of the system for 50 to 100 years? Casella offers none.

Given uncertainties about leakage and seepage, to place a landfill next to a state park and popular swimming and fishing lake, makes no sense. Why would the residents of Dalton want to do that to their own lake?

“Fact” #3. “[Truck] traffic to the proposed landfill will not exceed the current permitted truck count into the gravel pit and asphalt operations.” What? Casella has already acknowledged that the landfill would add—repeat, add—up to 90+ trucks per day on the roads to the proposed site. What Mr. Ingerson is permitted on the road into his gravel pit is beside the point. Ninety or more trucks coming and going, are actually 180+ trips per day through townships and on the road. Add to that the logging flatbeds and woodchip haulers on Rte. 116 and we see a traffic and safety problem of significant proportion. Not only will the added trucks damage streets and roads, their road film and leaking garbage will run straight into the Ammonoosuc, sending environmental contamination downstream to the Connecticut River and beyond.

“Fact” #4. “New Jobs, local spending, host benefits, and gas-to-energy facilities would greatly enhance the local economy.” This is gratuitous speculation, not an ironclad promise.

“Fact” #5. “Zoning will infringe upon the rights of all Dalton property owners…shifting individual authority to the town.” This is deceptive fearmongering. Zoning is simply a way for the voters of Dalton to ensure that they have control over the quality of their town and lives. Local land-use rules are not a threat to anyone save billion-dollar corporations like Casella’s that seek to impose their growth strategies on local people. That is why Casella is targeting Dalton; it has no zoning.

To suggest that zoning is “shifting individual authority to the town,” is ludicrous. It makes “the town” sounds like the “outsider” Casella is. A vote “Yes” on temporary zoning means the town will form a zoning board, made up of its own residents. This local board will develop rules that support Dalton’s long-range plan, which says “Future development should be consistent with and seek to protect Dalton’s natural environment; single family homes as the core of its development, and encourage forestry, agriculture and recreation/tourist-related activities businesses.”(Dalton Master Plan, 2011)

The Problem – The real problem here, which Casella has not acknowledged, is that the company is having trouble finding places to put its garbage. Notice that it is not just New Hampshire waste. It has been reported that Casella imports 30 to 50 percent of what it puts into the Bethlehem landfill from out of state, turning Bethlehem into New England’s trash-heap. Now they want to do that to Dalton. Bethlehem has said “No” to their expansion, which means they will run out of space in five years. The problem is Casella’s, don’t let it become Dalton’s.

Finally, the July/August 2019 issue of Sierra Magazine displays a cartoon of a bald eagle carrying in its talons a torn black plastic bag of garbage, scattering it all over a town. It’s not just a figment of a cartoonist’s imagination. The magazine reports, Bald eagles are scavenging garbage from a landfill near Seattle and dumping the remains in people’s back yards.” [p. 20)]

This leads to one last question: why would the residents of Dalton want New England’s trash not only in their figurative back yard in a landfill, but on their front yards, house roofs, cars, and children’s play areas and the lake in which they swim?

Dalton, it’s time to vote “Yes” to zoning to preserve the North Country and the lifestyle we all treasure.

Fred R. Anderson

Whitefield, New Hampshire

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