Two environmental groups have settled a federal lawsuit with a waste management company over allegations the company's landfill in New Hampshire leaked toxic chemicals into a nearby river.
Under the settlement reached this week, Casella Waste Systems and its subsidiary, North Country Environmental Services, have two years to remove sediment from a drainage channel between the Bethlehem Landfill the Ammonoosuc River.
The companies must also pay $50,000 into a trust for "projects designed to promote restoration, preservation, protection, and/or enhancement of water quality in the Ammonoosuc River watershed."
"We are extremely pleased to achieve a settlement that protects water quality in the Ammonoosuc River and holds Casella accountable for the harmful environmental impacts of one of its landfills," said Hayley Jones, the New Hampshire & Vermont State Director for Community Action Works. "This settlement represents a step in the right direction, showing the crucial role that community enforcement of environmental laws plays in protecting our health and environment."
Tom Irwin, vice president and director of CLF New Hampshire, said the settlement demonstrated why New Hampshire needed to focus on reducing waste, rather than putting it into landfills.
"By getting Casella to remove a decade's worth of contaminated sediments from a polluted channel flowing into the Ammonoosuc, this settlement directly addresses a legacy of landfill pollution," Irwin said in a statement.
Joseph Fusco, of Rutland, Vermont-based Casella Waste Systems, insisted the settlement shows the company felt "strongly about the merits of its case based on the facts and the science, and we believe that the settlement shows that we were correct."
"The settlement will allow us to move forward and continue to provide the necessary infrastructure to protect public health and the environment for our more than 50,000 customers and 150 communities served throughout New Hampshire for many years to come," Fusco said in an email interview.
Toxics Action Center and Conservation Law Foundation had accused the companies of allowing elevated concentrations of iron, manganese and 1,4-dioxane to leak from its 46 ½-acre landfill into the Ammonoosuc River. The company denied the claims. The groups argue the discharges from the landfill in Bethlehem violate the federal Clean Water Act and threaten those who swim in the river.