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Coakley Landfill debate heats up on Seacoast, in Concord

By KIMBERLEY HAAS
Union Leader Correspondent

March 07. 2018 8:15PM




GREENLAND — Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency defended an 18-year-old decision that a water treatment system is not necessary at Coakley Landfill Wednesday.

At the same time, members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives were voting 207-118 to declare the Superfund site an imminent hazard.

If signed into law, HB 1766 would direct the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services to force parties responsible for the site to install a pump-and-treat water system.

EPA Region 1 spokesman Dave Deegan said Wednesday they worked closely with state partners in 1999 when they made the decision that a groundwater extraction and treatment system would not be necessary.

“We reached this decision after carefully evaluating groundwater monitoring data which showed reduced levels of detected pollutants,” Deegan said.

The decision to not install a water treatment system at the Superfund site was cast into the national spotlight earlier this week because of news reports that Coakley Landfill Group could be on the hook for $5.25 million it was paid to install a system. It was reported that a 1991 consent decree involving parties responsible for contaminating the landfill documented the transaction.

Deegan said the EPA’s 1999 review determined that consolidating landfill waste and constructing the cap changed the chemical and hydrologic conditions at the landfill, so a water treatment system was no longer necessary and would be a poor use of municipal and private funds designated to accomplish the cleanup of Coakley Landfill.

The EPA issued a public notice and held a 15-day public comment period. No changes were made as a result of the public comment period, and on Sept. 29, 1999, the requirement to implement a groundwater extraction and treatment system was removed.

“Long-term, regular monitoring of the attenuation of site pollutants was implemented to make sure contamination is being attenuated at a rate that’s consistent with cleanup goals for the site,” Deegan said.

The landfill is a source of concern for community members on the Seacoast because they believe perfluorochemicals are being leaked from the site into residential drinking water and nearby waterways. The landfill does not have a liner underneath.

On Wednesday, the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed HB 1766, which declared the Superfund site an imminent hazard due to threats to public and private drinking water in the towns of Hampton, North Hampton, Rye and Greenland and the surface water bodies that flow through all Seacoast towns.

The bill compels the state’s Department of Environmental Services to require the 78 organizations which dumped waste from off-site locations to install upgradient wells west of the landfill near the outermost plume. Additional wells to speed the treatment process may be installed around the radius of the landfill if HB 1766 becomes law and work begins at the site.

Collected groundwater would be pumped through pipes to a treatment facility. The capital cost is expected to be about $7 million.

The bill now moves on to the state Senate.

Officials from the EPA and state DES are planning to meet with the public on April 5 at Bethany Church on Breakfast Hill Road in Greenland. That meeting will begin at 6 p.m.


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