LACONIA — Despite concerns over the safety of its drinking water, a Belknap County Superior Court judge has determined the town of Tilton does not have the right to sue the Belmont Planning Board about Belmont’s decision to grant Casella Waste Management, d.b.a. Bestway, from expanding its operation to include household waste processing because there has been no damage by it to the aquifer the business sits upon.
In his dismissal of a case filed by the town of Tilton against the planning board, Judge James O’Neill III said the injury is “highly speculative” and the town of Tilton’s use of the word “possibility” allows that it is speculative.
“Additionally, beyond noting that the [Casella] facility lies on the aquifer in question, the appellant has asserted no facts that show that this facility poses any threat to the aquifer,” said O’Neill.
He said the sole injury to the town of Tilton was the “’real and substantial possibility of damage to [Tilton’s] aquifer,’” including the contamination of the appellant’s drinking water and to the aquifer itself.”
He said that since the allegations were unsubstantiated, the court “’must look beyond’” when it determines whether or not the appellant has sufficient grounds for relief.
During a public hearing held by the board, a number of people from the towns of Tilton and Northfield appeared to voice opposition to the plan. All three towns use the aquifer and their primary source of drinking water including the Tilton-Northfield Water Company. Thirty-one days after the Planning Board decision was made on July 26, 2015 the town of Tilton challenged the ruling in the Belknap County Superior Court.
In the time between when the suit was filed and O’Neill’s decision, the state Department of Environmental Sciences granted conditional approval to Casella’s request to expand it operations to include household refuse.
O’Neill also determined the suit was not filed with the court within the 30-day time limit given to appellates or intervenors to challenge a planning board decision in court. Citing specific New Hampshire cases, he said the law regarding a 30-day right of appeal is clear and longstanding and there can be no excuses for a late filing, except in cases when draft minutes aren’t prepared within the five-day limit set by the state’s Right To Know laws.
Belmont resident George Condodemetraky plans to host a public meeting on Wednesday at 5 p.m. at the Belmont Corner Meeting House to discuss a petition to keep any further industrial development above the aquifer.
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