Opinion: Protect NH’s critical water resources
By Matt Leahy
The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests’ supports HB 1454, legislation to establish a method for determining the distance for which a new landfill shall be located from a perennial river, lake or coastal water. We urge the NH Senate to approve this bill at its session today.
One of New Hampshire’s distinguishing traits is the state’s deep natural beauty. This landscape, especially the forests and water resources, contributes to the environmental and economic health and well-being we enjoy. The protection and conservation of these natural areas are the result of a diverse partnership of public agencies, non-profit organizations and private citizens.
We view the goal of this bill as a key part of the state’s responsibility to steward these natural resources for the long-term public good of all the residents of New Hampshire. We wish to thank the bill’s sponsors for their introduction and support of them.
In 2019, the New Hampshire Legislature established the Committee to Study Recycling Streams and Solid Waste Management in New Hampshire (the HB 617 Study Committee) extensively studied how the state can better manage its solid waste stream.
The Committee noted that state law (RSA 149-M) established a hierarchy of solid waste disposal solutions. The priority approach to this challenge is to reduce the amount of waste the state produces. The least preferred method is to dispose of it in landfills.
While the HB 617 Study Committee report acknowledged the issue of solid waste management is complex, it also pointed out that “land used for disposal has other worthwhile uses” and that “most solid waste, including much plastic, construction and demolition debris and innumerable other types of waste, remain entombed in perpetuity.”
Landfills are known to contain toxic substances like volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals. In short, converting open space into a dumping ground for unwanted and dangerous material is not a wise use of the land.
We are especially supportive of HB 1454’s focus on limiting or prohibiting the siting of landfills within a defined distance of groundwater sources. Given the threats some communities across the state are facing to their local drinking water supplies from such problems as PFAS contamination, New Hampshire must prioritize policies that better protect these critical water resources.
The passage of HB 1454 will help to accomplish that goal. We encourage the committee to pass HB 1454.