CONCORD, N.H.—On Sept. 25, 2018, after holding a hearing in U.S. District Court, Judge Paul Barbadoro denied the motion by Casella Waste Systems and North Country Environmental Services (NCES) to dismiss a Clean Water Act lawsuit filed by Toxics Action Center and Conservation Law Foundation (CLF). In the lawsuit, brought by NELC attorneys, Toxics Action Center and CLF allege that the NCES landfill in Bethlehem, New Hampshire, is discharging pollutants into the Ammonoosuc River without the required Clean Water Act permit.
The lawsuit alleges that the pollutants released by the landfill to the Ammonoosuc include contaminated groundwater, landfill leachate, iron and manganese (which can cause discoloration and odor problems), and 1,4-dioxane (a suspected carcinogen). The Clean Water Act prohibits discharges of pollutants such as these without a valid National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, and Casella and NCES have admitted that they do not have such a permit for their drainage channel.
“Nearby families can’t run from polluted water, and Casella and NCES shouldn’t be able to either,” said Shaina Kasper, Vermont and New Hampshire state director at Toxics Action Center. “The landfill’s pollution has gone on for far too long and it’s time to hold them accountable.”
In their motion to dismiss, Casella and NCES argued that the members of Toxics Action Center and CLF are not injured by the pollution and thus do not have standing to bring this lawsuit; that the drainage channel is not the type of pollutant conveyance that requires a permit under the Clean Water Act; and that Casella, as the corporate parent, is not a proper defendant. Following the arguments, Judge Barbadoro denied the motion to dismiss on all three grounds.
“We are pleased that Judge Barbadoro saw through the defendants’ spurious arguments and ruled quickly on this motion,” said NELC staff attorney Kevin Budris, who argued on behalf of the citizen groups at the hearing. “NELC looks forward to continuing our fight, side by side with Toxics Action Center and CLF, against illegal pollutant discharges into such an important waterway in New Hampshire’s north country.”
“The recent ruling is an important step forward in our case,” said Tom Irwin, Vice President and Director of CLF New Hampshire. “And we will continue to fight to protect the Bethlehem community and precious resources like the Ammonoosuc.”
The lawsuit is scheduled for trial in October 2019. At trial, NELC attorneys will ask the court to order Casella and NCES to obtain the required Clean Water Act permit, and to abide by the monitoring and pollution reduction requirements in that permit.