NORTH HAMPTON — The state Senate and House last week passed a bill that will require the Coakley Landfill Group – working with state and federal officials – to design and implement a system to remediate contaminants found in Berry’s Brook.
Gov. Chris Sununu must sign the bill before it becomes law.
Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, was the prime sponsor of HB 494, which the Senate and House passed June 27 after a committee of conference unanimously agreed to the bill two weeks ago.
“The contaminants that have been, for decades, spreading from site groundwater at Coakley landfill are undoubtedly a public health concern,” Cushing said. “The passage of HB 494 today is a crucial step in finally creating and implementing a remedy for the cleanup of harmful pollutants that Coakley Landfill Group and the EPA have failed to enact.”
The bill requires the CLG to work with the state Department of Environmental Services and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by Nov. 1 to propose “an appropriate remedy, including a design solution, its associated costs and a reasonable timetable” to address the pollution in Berry’s Brook, the headwaters of which abut the landfill in Greenland and North Hampton.
The remedy, which must be proposed under provisions of a consent decree reached for the Superfund site, must “ensure the substantial reduction of the contaminants entering Berry’s Brook from the Coakley landfill,” according to the bill. The bill states the remedy must begin working no later than Sept. 1, 2020.
Tests in Berry’s Brook near the landfill found levels of PFAS chemicals in surface water nearly three times higher than the EPA’s health advisory level for groundwater.
“Safe water quality is a human right," Cushing said. "The health and safety of New Hampshire residents have been endangered by corporate polluters for far too long and too many lives have been lost to toxic carcinogens in our state.
Cushing said he hopes Gov. Chris Sununu will sign the bill "to protect the health of Granite Staters, our environment and vital Seacoast industries."
DES asked the CLG to clean up the brook in August 2018 but it refused. The CLG, which is responsible for the cost of the site's cleanup, includes municipalities and private companies that used the dump. Portsmouth is responsible for the largest share at 53.6%.
Many people living around the landfill are concerned chemicals, including PFAS and 1,4-dioxane, will migrate from the site and contaminate their drinking water wells.
DES in 2018 ordered the CLG to install private water treatment systems at a home and the Breakfast Hill Golf Course after 1,4-dioxane was found at both locations above the state’s new health standards. The EPA calls 1,4-dioxane “a likely human carcinogen.” PFAS has been found in residential wells, but below the EPA’s advisory level. The Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry states PFAS exposure can increase cancer risks and other health impacts.
Former state Rep. Mindi Messmer filed similar legislation when she was in the Legislature.
“After decades of inaction it’s really gratifying that the state Legislature was able to require some cleanup for Coakley,” Messmer, an environmental scientist, said.
She added it’s appropriate that “polluters like the Coakley Landfill Group are finally being held responsible.”
Sens. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, and Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, served on the committee of conference that agreed to the bipartisan bill.