Gilmanton petition would ban ‘stinky’ sludge used as fertilizer

Farmers worry they’ll be forced into using more expensive alternatives, farm neighbors want the smell eliminated

GILMANTON — A group of 36 local residents who are sick of the smell of bio-solids or "sludge" coming from neighboring farms, has filed a petitioned warrant article that, if it passes, would eliminate the use of bio-solids in Gilmanton.

According to Don Guarino, who lives across the street from The Haymaker Farm that got a permit to expand the area where they spread sludge from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services in September, the smell was outrageous.

Neighbor Len Swanson, who also lives near the same farm said his concerns were for safely and health.

"There is mounting evidence that it's not safe," Swanson said. "We had a horrendous odor for three weeks."

When asked if he became ill, he said he hadn't but his outdoor activities were seriously curtailed by the smell.

Bio-solids or "sludge" is organic matter recycled from sewage, which includes human waste, and primarily used as fertilizer in land applications. According to Michael Rainey the supervisor of Residuals Management Section at the state Department of Environmental Services, bio-solids have been used by multiple farmers in Gilmanton for a number of years.

Rainey said the state regulations on bio-solid use is much more stringent than that of the federal government and outlines a process for testing and notifications. He added that the state does not require a permit for Class A sludge and a site-specific permit is required for Class B sludge. Rainey said notice to a newspaper and to the town is required before each annual application of any sludge and the DES checks those during their inspections.

During the Jan. 14 meeting of the Gilmanton Planning Board, minutes reflect a number of people speaking against allowing sludge at all in Gilmanton. Draft minutes indicate that 20 people spoke and five letters were submitted for the record. Of those 25 comments, seven supported the continued use of bio-solids and asked for the Planning Board not to support the warrant article and 18 said they supported the ban and requested the opposite.

Planning Board Chairman Wayne Ogni said Friday that the board voted unanimously not to support the petition because no scientific evidence was presented to support the outright ban but said the Planning Board is not through with discussing bio-solids at all.

"In fact, I think we're just beginning our conversation," Ogni said.

He said he was initially disappointed that residents didn't come to the board earlier for a discussion but instead simply petitioned for a ban. Having said that, Ogni wants to hold a meeting with residents and possibly discuss some zoning and planning regulations that may be able to mediate some of the offending situations. He gave examples of earlier notifications, set backs more stringent than are provided by the state, ingresses and egresses as example of things that the Town Planning Board should be discussing and examining. He said he thinks the town needs more scientific and economic information before it bans bio-solids.

Rainey said the DES provides for individual communities to develop their own rules and regulations including zoning ordinances as long as they are not more liberal that those set by the state.

Farmers are not happy about the possibility voters could ban sludge from use or limit them from expanding their current usage.

Farmer Tim Towle said he started using Class A bio-solids on his farm about eight years ago because he likes the slow release of nitrogen into the soil. He said bio-solids used to be free, but now so many farmers are using it he has to pay, but bio-solids are still cheaper than commercial fertilizer.

Ryan Smith of Hammer Down Farm, the former Twigg property, said he had about 17 acres of land that needed "some work, to say the least." He said the sludge he used stuck to the land and was far less likely to be washed away in a downpour. He said if he loses the ability to use sludge, it will decrease his bottom line and profitability. He said commercial fertilizer is expensive and cow manure is hard to find.

Daniel Sanborn said he used bio-solids on 90 acres of corn and 42 acres of hay fields last year. He said his soil is much improved and would not support banning bio-solids. He also wanted the Planning Board and people to know that he has been farming since 1998 and wouldn't do anything that could jeopardize the future of his soil quality.

Another man, who asked not to be identified, and who lives near several farms but doesn't farm said the smell can be pretty rough for a few days but he would not like to ban bio-solids from Gilmanton. He added he's not overly fond of the smell of manure either and said the difference was not significant.

However,  Guarino feels very strongly that bio-solids should be banned from Gilmanton altogether. Although he is the selectman's representative to the Planning Board, he ceded his seat temporarily to Michael Jean so he could speak on the matter with no conflicts.

"We've had enough of the odor, trucking and transportation," he said. Guarino said the DES doesn't check for pharmaceuticals and having the DES as the watch dog is like having the wolf guard the hen house."

He said one of his neighbors has allegedly been sick since that last time it was spread in his neighborhood. "It devalues my property because all I can smell is (explicative.)"

Voters will be able to discuss the matter once more at the deliberative session of Town Meeting on Jan. 30 at 10 a.m. at the High School. Because it is a petitioned warrant article, it cannot be changed by the Planning Board or at the session. Elections are on March 8.

  • Category: Local News
  • Hits: 1491

Martin O’Malley calls climate change ‘greatest business opportunity’

Martin O’Malley, former governor of Maryland and Democratic candidate for president visited the Tilt’n Diner Friday. One person handed him a toy moose and explained tha moose are dying because of the increase in ticks prompted by a changing climate. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun photo)

TILTON — During the New Hampshire Presidential Primary of 1984, Martin O'Malley, then 19, slept on a floor in Manchester while working for Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado, who began his campaign with barely 1 percent of the vote, but crowned it by topping former Vice President Walter Mondale by 10 points to win the primary.
This year, O'Malley, who served as mayor of Baltimore for eight years and governor of Maryland for another eight, is himself a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, standing where Hart began, with 2 percent of the vote in a race dominated by Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, with just 17 days until the ballots are cast.
"You have three candidates to choose from. Not just two," O'Malley told a couple dozen voters at the Tilt'n Diner yesterday afternoon. He said he was encouraged to hear that when three Democrats met in Iowa yesterday to choose their favorite in anticipation of the caucus on Feb. 1, they split evenly among the three candidates. At the same time, he said he was often told "I really liked you in that debate, but why didn't they let you speak more?"
"I've always been drawn to a tough fight ," O'Malley said. "I didn't run run for mayor of Baltimore because things were going well." He claimed that the schedule and format of the debates among the Democratic candidates were "rigged" to favor Clinton and place her rivals at a disadvantage.
"Wherever I go I hear two phrases," O'Malley said, "new leadership and getting things done." He said that as mayor he inherited a city marked by rising crime, failing schools and a flagging economy and reversed all three trends.
"We make our own future," O'Malley insisted, stressing the importance of a growing economy. "Our economy is not money, it's people," he said. "We have a demand problem," he continued, explaining that some 70 percent of economic growth is driven by consumer spending, but wages and salaries have been stagnant. Meanwhile, he said that as middle class families have borrowed to educate their children, debt has become a drag on the economy.
Invoking the memory of President Theodore Roosevelt, O'Malley said that the power of monopolies should by curtailed by the enforcement of anti-trust laws and free competition restored to the marketplace. At the same time, employers paying low wages should no longer be subsidized by taxpayers who fund the benefits their employees receive to supplement their earnings. He questioned trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership, which encouraged firms to invest in operations overseas and failed to protect producers at home.
A strong environmentalist, O'Malley described the challenge of climate change as "the greatest business opportunity for America in 100 years." Speaking with two gentlemen at the diner, one of whom handed him a stuffed moose, he said that he learned the moose population was declining as warmer temperatures prolonged the lives of ticks bearing disease. He said when he asked the men what could be done, they replied "less carbon in the air" and he told them he has a plan to create a "100 percent clean electric grid by 2050."
O'Malley also called for a new foreign policy of "engagement and collaboration" aimed at anticipating threats "before we're pushed into a military corner" and overcoming through alliances and diplomacy.
"You have three candidates to choose from, not just two," O'Malley reminded the voters. "I'm giving you another choice."

  • Category: Local News
  • Hits: 2472

City man allegedly assaults former girlfriend, is charged

LACONIA — Police arrested a Winter Street man after his former girlfriend reported to them that he had violated a restraining order, come to her home and assaulted her.
Ronald Steele, 22, of 12 Winter St., Apt. 3, is charged with two counts of simple assault – domestic violence; one count of violating a protective order for entering her home; one count of false imprisonment – domestic violence for physically restraining her from leaving her home; and four counts of violating a protective order for sending her text messages.
Affidavits said responding officers found Steele hiding in one of her closets. Police said he told them he would leave and not return if they didn't arrest him because he didn't want to go to jail.
Police said Steele picked the woman up from the floor by grabbing her face and lifting her. The alleged victim said Steele threw her onto the bed and blocked her from leaving the room.
Steele allegedly assaulted the victim on Jan. 16, then was taken to Laconia Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. While there, police said he texted the former girlfriend four times. He countered by saying she was also contacting him.
Judge Jim Carroll ordered him held on $5,000 cash bail and set a curfew on him should he post bail. Carroll also ordered that if Steele gets a bed in the New Hampshire State Hospital his bail shall be reduced to personal recognizance. If he posts bail without getting a spot in a hospital, he is ordered to attend compliance court weekly at the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division. Steele is also ordered to seek a mental health evaluation from Genesis Behavioral Health.

  • Category: Local News
  • Hits: 1111