LACONIA — The town of Tilton filed suit in Belknap County Superior Court against the Belmont Planning Board last week claiming the board didn't allow Tilton proper input when it granted Casella Waste Management approval to modify its site plan for a hot load pad and a storm-water runoff plan.
The plan to go forward with a hot pad and the storm-water runoff plan with 20 conditions was approved July 27 by the Belmont Planning Board in a 4-1-1 vote with Claude Patten voting against and Peter Harris abstaining.
The hot-load pad, used to handle loads with combustible chemicals or that are smoking, and the storm-water run off plan were proposed by Casella regardless of whether or not it gets state approval for a household waste trash transfer site.
Currently, Casella handles construction waste transfers and had a recycling facility.
According to minutes of the July 27 meeting, the Belmont Planning Board met with Casella representatives and learned that there would be a pond lined with clay such that it will not drain and will allow the company to treat water before it is considered runoff.
In their court pleading asking the judge to overturn the approval, Tilton officials claim that "condition #20" as adopted as part of the approval by the Belmont Planning Board states the Belmont staff will work closely to address all raised regional concerns and asks that a letter be sent to the town of Tilton and Northfield and the Tilton-Northfield Water District asking if there are any known or suspected violations by Casella that should be shared with Belmont.
"Condition 20 was imposed as one of the several 'general conditions to be complied with subsequent to plan being signed and decision recorded,'" read the complaint, filed August 26.
Tilton officials said the Belmont Planning Board didn't consider regional impacts of the site changes and it was never officially noticed through certified mail about the meetings.
Minutes from those meetings, however, show that there were multiple attendees from Tilton, Northfield and members of their various districts and boards regarding both the DES approval public hearing for the household waste transfer and the public hearing for the newly developed storm-water runoff plan and hot-load pad.
In March, many Tilton and Northfield residents attended a public hearing held by the N.H. Department of Environmental Services and most voiced their concerns and opposition about the proposed household waste disposal site being located over an aquifer upon which all three communities depend for drinking water.
Tilton-Northfield Water District Commissioner Scott Davis said in the March that the aquifer is classified as a "potentially valuable, stratified drift aquifer" and that in the water district's opinion, it should be reclassified as a "delineated wellhead protection area."
Other concerns brought up at the March hearing were handling "hot" loads or smoking or flaming loads of waste that come largely from improperly discarded pool chemicals, a storm runoff plan, and the potential of a fire that leads to contaminated runoff. These concerns were the ones Casella most recently addressed.
During the public hearing in July, Davis noted Casella's runoff plan is based on a 50-year storm event while the area has seen two 100-year storms in the past two years. His fears are that an additional 100-year event would wash contamination over the banks of the detaining pond Casella is building.
An engineer with Casella noted that the N.H. DES requires a 50-year storm event plan not a 100-year one and that the site will be constantly monitored by the DES and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Tilton Selectman Jon Scalon reiterated Davis's concerns that the pond will be collecting contaminated sediment and in the event of a 50-year event all of the contamination will spill into the area that contains the aquifer.
Scanlon also had some concerns about the proposed hot-load pad and how it will be maintained. He said his concern is that the drain pipe will take in chemicals that could be released into the storm water runoff if the valve is opened.
During a motion to table the plan to learn more about an alleged violation brought up by Scanlon and Alden, Town Planner Candace Daigle asked if they could provide more information and Scanlon replied that "there had been a report of (a) violation."
Meanwhile, the representatives of DES have not yet determined if Casella will be granted an approval to accept up to 600 tons of solid waste daily for shipment for destruction.
To date, the DES has received 19 letters regarding the Casella expansion proposal with 18 voicing multiple concerns about protecting the aquifer that lies beneath the existing site. Most expressed opposition to the solid waste plan. The letters against the expanded use come from divergent members of the community including the Winnisquam Regional School District and the Tilton School to individual residents of Tilton and Northfield and the boards that represent them.
*The author of this story has a financial interest in Casella Waste Management, Inc.