April 09, 2014BETHLEHEM— Another North Country Environmental Services (NCES) public hearing will occur related to the landfill's operating permits. The Department of Environmental Services (DES) will provide the opportunity for public comment at a hearing on the proposed expansion of waste capacity at the landfill. The hearing occurs at 6 p.m. on April 17 at Profile School.
The waste permit under discussion pertains to Stage V of the NCES landfill plan. Application materials note Stage V "will be a horizontal expansion to the northwest of the existing landfill." The work "will be completed over existing developed areas," NCES states, and "no new areas of disturbance" are part of the proposal.
The landfill and NCES, a wholly owned subsidiary of Casella Waste Systems of Rutland, Vt., have caused much debate in Bethlehem through the years. The intense subject included long ranging legal disputes as the company sought to expand the landfill. Two years ago, voters authorized a settlement agreement, including a ten-acre expansion of the landfill located on Trudeau Road.
Even with the settlement agreement, many people in town do not favor the landfill. All of the public comments heard at an air quality permit application hearing earlier this year were critical of NCES, the DES oversight process, or both.
Debate on the landfill occurred at Monday night's meeting of the selectmen. After a request last week, the board discussed the possibility of hiring an outside engineer to review the Stage V application. The unanimous four board members present elected to not allocate town funds for such a review.
Chairman Sandy Laleme was the first to express the board's view on why the outside engineer was not necessary. She said the town's agreement with NCES allowed the expansion. The company, Laleme said, was "not going into any area that was not agreed to by the town." Other board members echoed Laleme's view that the DES engineers reviewing the application would protect the town's interests.
This idea did not please some members of the audience. Both Rita Farrell and Jeanne Robillard asked the board if they had reviewed the application. After some response from the board, Laleme said, "We're not going to go into a deeper discussion."
Farrell adamantly asked for a point of order and continued debate. "You can throw me out if you want," she said.
Robillard then asked the selectmen, "Don't you think it's your responsibility to know what's going on?" She continued, "People put their faith in you."
Vice Chairman Jerry Blanchard disagreed with Robillard's implication. He snapped back, "I have a responsibility to the people who put me in this chair." He rejected any notion that the selectmen were failing to look after the town's best interests.
Laleme urged all residents to attend the public hearing. Last month, DES staff member Paul Glidersleeve noted the purpose of the session. The opportunity to hear residents' input, he said, "is part of our hearing process." The department, he continued, looks for individuals to provide DES "feedback in terms of how the facility affects them."
Glidersleeve discussed the legal requirements for an entity looking to expand a landfill. A central question, he said, relates to the applicant demonstrating the public benefit of additional landfill space. He said NCES must "show that there is a need for the capacity in the state."
The area proposed in the Stage V permit application is 8.71 acres, including a gravel perimeter road. The area would add approximately 1.924 million cubic yards of capacity at the site, equal to about 1.558 million tons of waste.
NCES suggests the state's continued importation of waste and the limited growth potential for other landfills demonstrates the public benefit Stage V would bring. The application argues Stage V would help prevent "a situation in which waste generated in New Hampshire cannot be disposed of in the state."
NCES notes that the agreement in place with Bethlehem provides curbside waste pick up at no cost to the town. The permit suggests, "NCES's location and its role in an integrated waste management company enable it to provide cost-effective disposal capacity to the lightly-populated northwestern part of the state."
DES is slated to release a determination on the air quality permit application soon, according to staff member Barbara Dorfschmidt. This permit covers requirements under the federal Clean Air Act. "DES is currently in the process of reviewing all of the public comments and information received," Dorfschmidt wrote via email last month. She continued, "Once the Department has reached its final decision, it will issue a Findings of Fact and Director's Decision which will address all comments received."