Bills address solid waste regulation, landfill safety

  • Conway public works staffer Tim Shackford gets ready to dump of dirt over the garbage in the city landfill on Wednesday, January 18, 2023. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor Staff
Published: 3/6/2023 1:16:10 PM

As New Hampshire strives to improve its solid waste management, state lawmakers have debated a number of bills aimed at strengthening landfill safety and promoting waste reduction.

Bills related to landfill siting regulations and food waste disposal are gaining attention among the house and senate committees. The state’s recently updated solid waste management plan and its goals for the future have raised growing concerns over New Hampshire’s loose regulations and possible environmental impact on public health.

Two bills, House Bill 56 and House Bill 602 are aimed at establishing stricter regulations for the siting of new landfills, including greater setbacks from water sources than are currently in place to prevent contamination.

Rather than providing site-specific regulations, New Hampshire’s current regulations require a minimum 200-foot setback from nearby bodies of water when locating new landfills. That’s about the same distance as the length of two basketball courts. 

However, HB 56 proposes to change this regulation by requiring landfill operators to hire hydrogeologists at their own expense to survey geological patterns such as soil type at the intended location in order to determine site-specific setback requirements, as opposed to the arbitrary 200-foot setback.

A similar bill, HB 1454, was vetoed by Gov. Chris Sununu. The veto nearly was overridden – the House overwhelming voted to override but the Senate was split, 12-11 when a two-thirds threshold was needed. The sponsors of this year’s version say that the language has been cleaned up to ensure that these regulations only apply to new landfills and not existing landfills.

“We are not trying to impinge on any pre-existing landfills that are in existence and doing so I would at least hope that gives some additional reassurance that we understand that this is a service that is provided to folks but at the same time we are also concerned about water quality,” said Rep. Megan Murray, an Amherst Democrat, when she introduced the bill at the legislative hearing.

The other bill, HB 602 proposes a set of rules comparable to Maine’s landfill siting law and is similar to HB 56, but with a focus on leachate infiltration beneath the buried waste that can reach groundwater.

More proposed legislation on landfills

Another bill aimed at solid waste, Senate bill 227, would require the Department of Environmental Services to prepare a request for proposals from companies to assess current setback requirements. The contractor will assess protections in current state law and administrative rules that are applicable to the permitting of new solid waste facilities, and suggest changes.

To update the state’s current laws and rules related to groundwater and surface water protection from landfill leachate spills, SB 61 proposes that the DES reexamine its rules on a regular basis to update site-specific requirements. The bill also establishes a timeframe for the department to implement new setback rules.

Bills on solid waste

Aside from landfill bills, legislators in New Hampshire are proposing several solid waste bills during the state’s legislative sessions.

One of the bills, HB 300 would prohibit those generating one ton of food waste per week or more from disposing of food waste in a landfill or incinerator unless there is no alternative facility within 50 miles, starting Feb 1, 2025. The bill was amended in the House to reduce the distance to 20 miles.

Another, HB 465 is aimed at restricting manufacturers of carpets and rugs from treating fabric with PFAs to reduce toxicity in the waste stream. The bill states that complying with the restriction may increase costs for manufacturers, which could then be passed on to consumers.

Sruthi Gopalakrishnan

Sruthi Gopalakrishnan covers environmental and energy stories in Bow, Hopkinton, Dunbarton and Warner for the Concord Monitor. In 2022, she graduated from Northwestern University with a master's degree in journalism, specializing in investigative reporting. She also has a bachelor's degree in Computer Science and Engineering and is always looking for new ways to incorporate data and visual elements into her stories. Her work has appeared in Energy News Network, Prism Reports and Crain's Chicago Business.

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