Firefighters sound the alarm on PFAS chemicals

Ask lawmakers to ban PFAS in firefighter personal protective equipment

Paul Jacques and Sean Mitchell and Jason Burns Jul 9, 2022

From Commonwealth on Line, July 9, 2022

IF YOU WERE to call 911 right now, firefighters would arrive at your door within four minutes.  They would assess the problem and not leave until it was resolved.

Massachusetts firefighters have a problem, and we are sounding the alarm.  Our firefighter personal protective equipment — the uniforms we wear to fight fires and respond to emergencies — contain toxic per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

PFAS are a class of chemicals linked to a wide array of health problems.  PFAS cause testicular cancer, kidney cancer, endocrine disruption, immune suppression, liver disease, altered mammary gland development, and asthma, among many other health problems.

Independent studies have shown that the PFAS in firefighter gear remains in the air and dust of Fire Stations.  Every day firefighters inhale, ingest, and absorb PFAS. Each time we wear or touch our gear we physically absorb PFAS.  Additionally, when our uniforms are cleaned, toxic PFAS are washed down floor drains into the local community’s wastewater.

According to the International Association of Firefighters, 75 percent of line of duty deaths in 2021 were due to occupational cancer. Cancers are killing our firefighters at alarming rates, so we must take the opportunity to limit our exposure to any additional chemicals that are not deemed essential for function or use in society, especially when innovation has shown safer alternatives are available. Our constant and unnecessary exposures to PFAS must come to an end.

The solution?  Massachusetts firefighters are asking the State Legislature to ban PFAS in firefighter personal protective equipment

Until recently, most of us had never heard of PFAS.  We understood the dangers associated with smoke and fire, but never imagined the uniforms we wear could contain harmful toxic chemicals.

For decades, chemical manufacturers promoted the benefits of PFAS.   They worked with government regulators to require the use of PFAS-containing firefighting foam. Representatives from chemical companies and gear manufacturers joined the Technical Committees of the National Fire Protection Association and created standards that required PFAS be added to firefighters’ gear. All the while, these chemical companies were funding research that seemed to minimize the harmful effects of PFAS while promoting their sales and increasing profits.

Consequently, it is impossible to purchase personal protective equipment that does not contain PFAS.  That means, while Massachusetts is paying millions to clean up PFAS contamination in drinking water, firefighters continue to be forced to wear gear with those very same chemicals.

That isn’t right.  The gear we use to protect us should not shorten our lives or expose us to chemicals so harmful they need to be regulated at a “parts per trillion” level. We are asking the Massachusetts Legislature to act urgently, before the end of July 2022, and pass H2475/S1576 An Act relative to the reduction of certain toxic chemicals in firefighter personal protective equipment.

Meet the Author

Paul Jacques and Sean Mitchell and Jason Burns

Sean Mitchell is deputy chief of the Nantucket Fire Department; Paul Jacques is the legislative agent for Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts; Jason Burns is the District 8 vice president for Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts.

Where is All the Construction and Demolition Debris Going to GO?

Maine bans Mass. trash at regional landfill

April 27, 2022

BOSTON — Massachusetts waste haulers are looking for new locations to dispose of construction trash and debris following a move by Maine to ban out-of-state waste at one of the region’s largest landfills.

A proposal signed by Maine Gov. Janet Mills prohibits the importation of out-of-state trash and construction debris and sets new requirements for the expansion and licensing of state-owned landfills.

Maine law restricts out-of-state waste, but a loophole in state law allows outside trash to be reclassified as Maine refuse if it is initially processed at a Lebanon recycling facility before heading to the sprawling Juniper Ridge landfill in Alton, located about 60 miles from Bar Harbor.

The state-owned facility, which processes about 500,000 tons of waste a year, gets a majority of it from Massachusetts, New Hampshire and other states.

Maine lawmakers who pushed the measure through said regional landfill operations devalue surrounding properties, impede economic development, and bring odor, noise and pollution. They said the regional landfill was never meant to accept waste from surrounding states.

But waste hauling companies, which opposed the move, say the ban will cost jobs and lead to the closing of waste processing facilities in Maine. They point out that solid waste is a regional industry, and say restrictions on cross-border disposal of construction trash and debris will drive up costs for businesses and consumers.

“When you start banning construction and demolition waste you make it more expensive, because it has to travel farther,” said Joe Fusco, vice president of Casella Waste Management, which operates the Juniper Ridge facility. “When there is a constraint in disposal options, the price goes up.”

He said the most immediate impact of Maine’s new restrictions would be that Massachusetts haulers who use the Juniper Ridge landfill will need to find somewhere else to dispose of it, which will drive up disposal costs.

Massachusetts banned disposal of most construction and demolition debris more than a decade ago, forcing contractors to look to neighboring states to get rid of waste from building renovations and other projects.

In 2019, Massachusetts exported nearly 2 million tons of the 5.5 million tons of trash it produced that year to other states, according to the latest data from the state Department of Environmental Protection. The amount of exported trash has risen every year since 2012, the data shows.

But states such as Maine that are on the receiving end of the refuse are complaining about the amount of waste coming from Massachusetts and other states, which officials say are stretching already limited capacity at their landfills.

In New Hampshire, officials are also looking to tighten the laws to restrict out-of-state trash amid warnings that the state will run out of landfill capacity.

Environmental groups say the answer to diminishing landfill access is diverting trash and construction debris and have been pressuring states to aggressively expand recycling and reuse programs.

To be sure, the amount of trash going into Massachusetts landfills is expected to decrease even further under the state’s new 10-year solid waste reduction plan.

The plan calls for cutting the amount of solid waste going into landfills by 570,000 tons a year by 2050 and bans the disposal of mattresses and textile products.

A spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Environment Protection said the agency “shares the same goals” of Maine and other states to reduce solid waste and has been working to divert more construction and demolition materials into the recycling stream before it is shipped out of state for disposal.

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at


USEPA designates Lower Neponset River a Superfund Site

EPA designates Lower Neponset River a Superfund site

By David Abel Globe Staff,Updated March 14, 2022, 12:01 a.m.


An old refrigerator is caught in the Tileston & Hollingsworth Dam in Hyde Park along the Neponset River trail in Lower Mills.Erin Clark/Globe Staff/file

With gentle rapids flowing along granite-lined bends, the Neponset River has long been a hidden gem of Boston. But over the years its natural splendor has been badly tarnished, with its rust-colored water concealing toxic sediment and contaminated fish.

Now, after years of lobbying by local and state officials for federal help to clean it up, the US Environmental Protection Agency on Monday will designate a 3.7-mile stretch of the river a Superfund site.

The designation means the EPA will put significant federal dollars, scientific expertise, and legal muscle behind the cleanup, which could cost tens of millions of dollars and take decades.

Related: EPA recommends Superfund status for Lower Neponset River

“We now have a mechanism to clean up the river and protect the health of the communities around it, as well as increasing the overall use and enjoyment of this important resource,” said David Cash, the EPA’s newly appointed regional administrator in New England. “This is a win for families who value recreating on the river, a win for great blue herons, a win for fish, and a win for Massachusetts.”

The Lower Neponset River was fouled by years of pollution from a host of mills and manufacturing plants along its banks in Boston that have made its fish poisonous to eat and its bottom laden with polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, the carcinogenic byproducts of industrial activity that began nearly a century ago.

Related: Baker supports national designation for contaminated Lower Neponset River

The stretch of river from Mother Brook in Hyde Park to the Walter Baker Dam in Dorchester is one of 12 sites around the country that EPA officials added to more than 1,300 now listed on the Superfund National Priorities List, which includes 33 others in Massachusetts. The state’s last Superfund site was a contaminated factory in Amesbury designated in 2017.

Piles of trash are discarded nearby the path along the Neponset River Trail in Lower Mills. Erin Clark/Globe Staff/file

Mayor Michelle Wu called the river a “natural treasure” and said restoring its ecosystem is vital.

“I look forward to working closely with the Environmental Protection Agency on improving this beautiful resource in Boston,” she said.

Related: The Neponset River, a hidden jewel of Boston, has become a tarnished gem

EPA scientists said they plan to start collecting thousands of samples from the river this fall, while the agency’s enforcement division, working with the Justice Department, will seek to establish who was responsible for the pollution.

“We intend to initiate a detailed investigation about where the contamination is and what the impacts are,” said Meghan Cassidy, deputy director of the EPA’s Superfund and Emergency Management Division in New England.

There are a number of companies that likely contaminated the river, going back as early as the 1930s, but neither state nor federal officials have sufficient evidence to force them or their successors to pay for the cleanup.

About 15 years ago, after the toxic sediment was first identified, state officials compelled Thomas & Betts Co., a producer of electrical equipment that had acquired a local manufacturing plant for electrical wiring that had contributed to the pollution, to clean a portion of the river in Hyde Park. But officials later discovered that the PCBs were spread in other parts of the river, far more extensively than previously understood.

A study by the US Geological Survey found that 3.7 miles of the river contained PCB contamination. PCBs were commercially manufactured in the United States from 1929 until their production was banned in 1979. Resistant to extreme temperatures and pressure, they were used widely in electrical equipment, hydraulic fluids, and lubricants.

contributed to the river’s pollution, and in 2019, after a lot of litigation, a federal appeals court in Boston ruled that other companies had to share in the nearly $13 million cost of the initial cleanup. With such a complicated history of finding who’s responsible for cleaning the rest of the river, the state has deferred enforcement to the federal government, which has much greater legal firepower and ability to assign blame.

Cassidy said the work will proceed, even if the agency doesn’t identify a responsible party.

“We’re pretty optimistic that we won’t see a delay,” she said.

But it’s unclear how long the project will take.

“We have to do a very thorough investigation before we figure out the appropriate remediation,” she said. “We do know that these complicated, large sites take some time. It’s not unlikely it could take decades.”

Local residents, officials, and environmental advocates said they were grateful for the federal help.

“It’s exciting to know the EPA is taking charge,” said Melanie Daye, president of the Hyde Park Central River Neighborhood Group.

Kathleen Conlon, chair of the select board in Milton, which abuts the river, said she hopes the cleanup will “restore a healthy natural habitat for wildlife and increase recreational opportunities for the public.”

Senator Ed Markey, in a statement, called the EPA’s designation “an important step toward ensuring that the river receives the resources and attention it needs to be restored.”

Ian Cooke, executive director of the Neponset River Watershed Association, hopes the cleanup will include the removal of old, unused dams; the return of significant herring and shad runs; and eventually fishing and swimming.

As he paddled down the river last September, there were signs that the challenges of restoring the river may go well beyond removing PCBs, with trash and remnants of sewage visible along the shore.

He also wondered whether the EPA would find PCBs farther down the river, in an estuary beyond the 3.7-mile Superfund site.

“It’s fantastic to see EPA stepping up to lead this project,” he said. “We look forward to working with them and keeping the pressure on to move things along quickly.

Sulfuric Acid Spill Results in 1.5 Million Penalty

From the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office

Cotton Bleaching Company to Pay Nearly $1.5 Million for Acid Spill That Killed More Than 270,000 Fish in the North River

Company will Compensate Massachusetts for Harms to Natural Resources and Cold Water Fishery; Ensure Safe Operation of Colrain Bleaching Facility
For immediate release:
  • Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
  • Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection

BOSTON — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Baker-Polito Administration announced today that Barnhardt Manufacturing Company, a North-Carolina-based cotton bleaching company, has agreed to pay nearly $1.5 million to settle allegations that it spilled dozens of gallons of concentrated sulfuric acid from its Colrain facility into the North River, killing more than 270,000 fish, including thousands of state-listed rare species.

The state and federal settlements will also require the company to take steps to comply with water pollution, hazard management, and chemical accident prevention laws at their bleaching facility and associated wastewater treatment facility.

“The sulfuric acid spill caused by this company was devastating for the Colrain community and left long-lasting damage to the North River,” AG Healey said. “Today’s settlements will hold Barnhardt accountable for harming this rich ecosystem and will provide significant funding to restore nearby natural resources and fisheries.”

According to the AG’s complaint, on Sept.1, 2019, between approximately 53 and 60 gallons of concentrated sulfuric acid sprayed out of an outdoor above-ground storage tank at Barnhardt’s Colrain facility directly onto the ground. The AG’s Office alleges that Barnhardt knew the storage tank had a leak and neglected to repair it. Dozens of gallons of acid allegedly flowed into a nearby brook and down a three mile stretch of the North River, a pristine river and popular recreational fishery that feeds into the Deerfield River. According to the complaint, the acid dissolved nearly everything in its path, killing more than 270,000 fish and damaging more than 14 acres of protected wetland resource areas and over 12 acres of designated habitat of two state-listed rare species—the Longnose Sucker fish and the Ocellated Darner dragonfly. Barnhardt also allegedly discharged wastewater from its facility in excess of permitted limits on numerous occasions, improperly operated and maintained its wastewater treatment facility, and mismanaged hazardous waste oil.

The AG’s Office alleges Barnhardt’s acid spill and facility operations violated numerous Massachusetts environmental laws and regulations, including the state Wetlands Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Waters Act, and Hazardous Waste Management Act, and gave rise to significant damages under the Commonwealth’s Oil and Hazardous Material Release Prevention and Response Act and Inland Fisheries Statute.

EPA’s administrative settlement alleges, among other things, that the company failed to maintain its sulfuric acid tank in violation of the General Duty Clause of the Clean Air Act, which requires users of extremely hazardous substances to take steps to prevent and mitigate accidental releases.

Under the terms of the settlement with the AG’s Office, Barnhardt is required to comply with state regulations to protect water quality and natural resources at and around its facility and undertake additional training, planning, and operations to prevent future releases. Barnhardt will also pay up to $500,000 in penalties, including $200,000 to the Commonwealth’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Fund. Barnhardt will also fund the replacement and/or enhancement of one or more culverts located in the Deerfield River watershed in Colrain, at a cost of $300,000. Additionally, Barnhardt will pay the state more than $360,000 to fund environmental restoration projects in the Colrain area, to compensate for the harm to natural resources and fisheries, and to reimburse the costs of assessing natural resource damages.

EPA’s settlement requires a civil penalty payment of approximately $305,000 to the U.S. Treasury and work to ensure that chemical hazards at the plant are identified and addressed.

“EPA’s case complements the Commonwealth’s by addressing the root cause of the spill,” says EPA Acting Regional Administrator Deb Szaro. “It’s critical that companies handling hazardous chemicals identify hazards and ensure that their facilities are designed and maintained safely. Carefully following the Clean Air Act’s chemical accident prevention provisions helps prevent releases from occurring in the first place.”

The state settlement was negotiated in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW). EPA brought its administrative case on a separate but parallel track.

“The North River is an important fishery and recreational asset that was severely affected by the release of industrial acid from the Barnhardt facility,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “This appalling situation was entirely preventable, and we trust that the settlement and improvements at the facility will prevent similar events in the future while helping to restore these local fisheries and natural resources.”

“The acid spill in Colrain devastated natural resources in the North River. This settlement will help prevent future spills from happening and compensate the public for the environmental damage that was caused,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “This settlement will also help ensure that Barnhardt complies with its effluent limits and toxicity levels as required under the Clean Water Act regulations.”

“I would like to thank the Deerfield River Chapter of Trout Unlimited, local anglers, and the many fishing guides who serve as our ‘eyes and ears’ on the river and first reported the fish kill that led to this action,” said Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game Commissioner (DFG) Ron Amidon. “We are very pleased that the Attorney General’s Office negotiated a settlement that provides $292,000 to the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife for fisheries and rare species restoration, and $300,000 to the Town of Colrain for culvert improvements that will further benefit cold water fish and native wildlife. We look forward to working with the local partners on efforts that will benefit trout and other wildlife in the North River and greater Deerfield River watershed.”

This case was handled for Massachusetts by Assistant Attorney General Turner Smith, Deputy Chief of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, with the assistance of Assistant Attorney General Tracy Triplett, along with MassDEP Chief Regional Counsel Christine LeBel and technical staff members Brian Harrington, Matthew Sokop, Daniel Kurpaska, Saadi Motamedi, David Howland, Dave Slowick, Joel Rees, and Dave Foulis; MassDEP’s Natural Resources Damages Program Coordinator Michelle Craddock; DFG General Counsel Jennifer Sulla; and Chief of Regulatory Review Jesse Leddick, Senior Endangered Species Review Biologist Misty-Ann Marold, and Assistant Director of Fisheries Todd Richards, all of the DFG’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.


Best Lawyers in America recognizes Attorney Myhrum for his work in Environmental Law and Litigation.

Since initial publication in 1983, Best Lawyers has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence.

The nationwide list of attorneys included in the 28th edition is based on more than 10.8 million confidential and detailed evaluations from more than 41,000 leading attorneys on the legal abilities of other lawyers in their practice areas. This year, Best Lawyers recognized Attorney Christopher Myhrum for his practice and experience in environmental law and litigation.

Attorney Myhrum has received this prestigious recognition every year since 1991.

As one of the foremost attorneys in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the field of environmental law, Attorney Myhrum approaches each effort he takes on with a fresh perspective.  He is recognized as a fiercely independent advocate for his clients.  He works with environmental consultants, federal, state and municipal officials and other lawyers seeking opportunities, where possible, for collaboration rather than acrimony and contention.

Attorney Myhrum is a magna cum laude graduate of Boston College Law School and a cum laude graduate of New York University. He is a board member of Westmass Area Development Corporation, which is developing the largest Brownfields project in the New England, and where he serves as Director and Land Inventory Committee Member.


What’s Left Once You Take Away EJ Communities in Massachusetts?

Environmental justice designation coming under scrutiny

Bruce Mohl – CommonWealth Daily Download editor

August 3, 2021

Environmental justice communities, marginalized areas of the state overburdened with pollution from power plants, industrial facilities, and highways, are turning out to be more commonplace in Massachusetts than you might think.

Earlier this year, when the Legislature passed a sweeping climate change bill containing language defining an environmental justice, or EJ community, advocates said the measure was needed to protect areas of the state with high populations of people of color, low-income residents, and other marginalized groups that face disproportionate environmental burdens.

But as the definition is being applied, the number of EJ communities is turning out to be larger than expected. According to a state analysis of Census data, close to 200 of the state’s 351 cities and towns contain some EJ neighborhoods.

There were municipalities containing EJ neighborhoods you would expect, including Chelsea, Everett, Lawrence, and Randolph, where the entire city was an EJ community. Others high on the list included Brockton, Fall River, Fitchburg, Holyoke, Lowell, Malden, New Bedford, North Adams, Quincy, Springfield, and Worcester.

But there were also cities and towns containing fairly high concentrations of EJ neighborhoods that one would hardly describe as environmentally overburdened, including Acton, Amherst, Arlington, Avon, Brookline, Lexington, Waltham, Watertown, and Westborough.

The state’s EJ designation is based on income, minority, and language metrics in a particular neighborhood, or Census block. According to the state’s definition, a neighborhood is considered an EJ community if its annual median household income is less than 65 percent of the statewide annual median, if minorities comprise at least 40 percent of the population, if at least 25 percent of households lack English language proficiency, or if minorities represent at least 25 percent of the population and the annual median household income of the entire municipality does not exceed 150 percent of the statewide annual median income.

Last week, state environmental officials showed just how powerful the EJ designation could be. In setting regulations for the construction of wood-burning power plants, the officials said the facilities would not qualify for essential ratepayer subsidies if they were located in an EJ community or within five miles of one. That ruling meant that 89 percent of the state was off-limits to biomass plants and someone looking to build such a facility in Massachusetts could only locate it in 35 of the state’s 351 cities and towns.

Needham, Dover, Weston, Wayland, Lincoln, Concord, and Carlisle have no EJ neighborhoods, but they were largely off-limits to biomass plants because they are near EJ neighborhoods in adjacent municipalities.

Needham and Dover, for example, border two EJ neighborhoods in Wellesley. While the individual neighborhoods in Wellesley are considered EJ based on their minority population, the population overall in Wellesley is 77 percent white, with Asian as its largest minority group at 12 percent. The the median income overall in Wellesley is $197,132.

Much of Cohasset, Scituate, and Marshfield would be open to wood-burning power plants under the new regulations because they have no EJ communities and they are surrounded by other communities that lack EJ populations, including Hingham and Norwell.

Lawmakers representing some of the 35 communities where a biomass facility would qualify for ratepayer subsidies are grumbling that their constituents are unfairly being singled out for possible exposure to soot and other air pollution from wood-burning power plants.

“If we’re going to regulate biomass out of 90 percent of the Commonwealth, we might as well make it ineligible for [incentive programs] across the entire Commonwealth,” said Sen. Adam Hinds, a Pittsfield Democrat who represents 17 western Massachusetts towns where biomass would remain eligible.

Proposed Biomass Limits Would Restrict New Plants in 90 Percent of Massachusetts

Shira Schoenberg – CommonWealth reporter

July 30, 2021

Months after the Baker administration pulled the plug on plans for a controversial new biomass plant in Springfield, state environmental officials proposed new regulations that would drastically limit where biomass plants can be located.

The rules promulgated by the Department of Energy Resources in April say new biomass plants located in or within five miles of an environmental justice community will not qualify as a renewable energy source under a state program, the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard or RPS, that requires energy producers to obtain a certain amount of energy from renewable sources. Financially, that would likely make it impossible for a company to locate a plant there.

Environmental justice communities are generally poor communities of color that are disproportionately affected by pollution.

Practically, Massachusetts has adopted an expansive definition of environmental justice communities, which means that about 90% of the state is within five miles of one of these communities. Most of the remaining places where biomass would be eligible for the incentive are in rural Western Massachusetts.

The restrictions, which will be the subject of a legislative hearing on Friday, are angering representatives of the few communities that could still be targeted to host biomass plants.

“If we’re going to regulate biomass out of 90 percent of the commonwealth, we might as well make it ineligible for [incentive programs] across the entire commonwealth,” said Sen. Adam Hinds, a Pittsfield Democrat who represents 17 towns where biomass would remain eligible. Hinds worries that the towns in his district will be aggressively pursued by biomass companies, and he worries about pollution.

Sen. Jo Comerford, a Northampton Democrat who represents three eligible communities, said she has long believed biomass should not be eligible as a renewable energy source because of the pollution it creates – which makes it less “green” than wind or solar power. Comerford said she agrees with DOER’s decision to keep biomass out of environmental justice communities. But she said retaining eligibility in 10 percent of the state puts DOER “in a pretzel-like argument.”

“It’s saying biomass in environmental justice communities is bad, but biomass in Leyden is good,” Comerford said.

Sen. Patrick O’Connor, a Weymouth Republican who represents three eligible communities, spearheaded a letter signed by nine lawmakers expressing concern that in 35 municipalities, biomass would still be incentivized. “These large-scale power plants would burn about 1,200 tons of wood per day, emitting masses of soot and harmful pollutants into the air of surrounding communities, exacerbating existing consequences of poor air quality, such as asthma and other respiratory ailments,” O’Connor wrote. “These regulations not only demonstrate environmental neglect, but they are also patently unfair towards these ‘exception’ communities who are being both targeted for biomass siting and then are forced to endure the obstructive and harmful consequences of this energy production.”

According to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, DOER is required by statute to make biomass energy eligible for the RPS program. Biomass reduces lifecycle greenhouse gases and encourages a market for low grade wood, which can promote better forest management and avoid costly expenses to dispose of the material. The five-mile exclusion was created to protect environmental justice communities that are already overburdened by pollution.

In a letter to the chairs of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy, DOER commissioner Patrick Woodcock wrote that the proposed rules also align with a provision in state law that requires an environmental report for any project that impacts air quality, is likely to damage the environment, and is located within five miles of an environmental justice community.

Opposition to New Hampshire Serving as Massachusetts’ Solid Waste Disposal Site

As landfill space dwindles in Massachusetts, New Hampshire has become the state’s dumping ground

By David Abel Globe Staff, Updated July 19, 2021, 5:10 p.m.


DALTON, N.H. — In the rolling hills along the northwestern edge of the White Mountains, beside a nearly century-old state park and a serene lake where neighbors fish and swim, a waste management company plans to build New England’s first new landfill in decades.

The proposed Granite State Landfill, which has sparked protests across the North Country of New Hampshire, would bring more than 100 heavy trucks rumbling every day through small towns to dump nearly a half-million tons of trash a year on 137 acres of forested wetlands.

Much of that refuse would likely come from out of state, a growing burden that has peeved many in New Hampshire, where nearly half of all trash dumped here is hauled in from surrounding states — mostly from Massachusetts.

“We don’t want to be the dumping ground for the rest of New England,” said Wayne Morrison, whose homes abuts Forest Lake, a recreational draw stocked with smallmouth bass and pike less than 3,000 feet from the proposed dump. “It’s totally obscene to put a landfill here; this is the worst possible place.”

As landfills close after reaching capacity and zoning rules make it difficult to expand existing dumps or open new ones, officials at the company behind the Dalton landfill, Casella Waste Systems, contend the region needs more places to unload trash.

They cite a 2019 state report that estimated New Hampshire could have a shortfall of 120,000 tons in annual disposal capacity by 2025, and 10 times that by 2034, assuming the closure of several existing landfills and no significant reduction in the waste stream.

“New Hampshire is looking at serious capacity constraints over the next two decades,” said Joseph Fusco, vice president of Casella, a Vermont-based waste management company that has nearly $800 million in annual revenue and operates nine landfills and 20 recycling facilities in the Northeast. “There are constraints elsewhere in the region, and those constraints will become New Hampshire’s problem as well. We’re addressing a public policy problem.”

Casella has an agreement with the owner of a sand and gravel company to buy the Dalton land, which is close to two interstate highways. Fusco said the geology of the land also makes it ideal for a landfill.

“This is a prime location,” Fusco said. “This is the site that makes the most sense.”

It’s also easier to put landfills in New Hampshire than other states. Fusco and others at Casella say state law limits the ability of local officials to reject a landfill and requires they defer to state regulators.

But officials in New Hampshire and Massachusetts say it’s unclear whether new landfills are necessary.

Between 2015 and 2019, New Hampshire received an average of 2.2 million tons of trash a year, 47 percent of it from elsewhere in New England, according to the state Department of Environmental Services. In 2019, 86 percent of imported garbage came from Massachusetts.

Because of interstate commerce laws, New Hampshire can’t ban out-of-state trash. But it can impose regulations that could significantly limit imports, as some states do. Vermont, for example, requires municipalities that send trash to a landfill there to submit a solid waste master plan, which few from outside the state do.

With most of New Hampshire’s six landfills seeking permission to expand, officials said they’re unsure if the state needs another dump, especially given that its population of about 1.4 million is not growing by much.

“We have adequate capacity for the next several years, but it’s hard to answer whether there’s enough space over the next 20 years,” said Mike Wimsatt, director of the waste management division of the Department of Environmental Services. “If there’s a deficit, we’d conclude there’s a need for capacity.”

The amount of imported trash is not included in that calculation, and changes to how the state regulates such imports would have to be approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature, Wimsatt said.

Under pressure from deep-pocketed waste companies such as Casella, which hopes the new facility will make up for lost revenue after its sprawling dump in nearby Bethlehem closes this decade, the Legislature has been loath to make such changes. In May, lawmakers rejected a bill that would have banned landfills within two miles of state parks, a measure aimed squarely at Casella’s proposal.

Casella opposed the legislation, because it was unnecessary, Fusco said.

Earlier this year, the Legislature required state officials to complete a new solid waste master plan by next year, for the first time since 2003.


In Massachusetts, where landfill space is quickly growing scarce, waste companies have increasingly looked north.


Of more than 5.5 million tons of refuse that Massachusetts produced in 2019, the most recent year for which data was available, the state exported nearly 2 million tons; that’s 55 percent more than in 2010.

Without significant changes, those exports are projected to rise sharply. All but one of the state’s seven landfills are projected to close by 2030, and total capacity in Massachusetts is expected to decline to just 60,000 tons, 90 percent below current levels.

Environmental advocates have long argued that state officials, aggressively lobbied by waste management companies that can charge as much as $100 a ton for disposal in New England, have done too little to limit the waste stream.

“The waste companies want us to think they’re the only way to go,” said Kirstie Pecci, director of the Zero Waste Project at the Boston-based Conservation Law Foundation. “That’s not even close to being true.”

She and other environmental advocates oppose the proposed landfill in Dalton, which they say would encourage greater imports of garbage and impede broader efforts to reduce trash.

Most of the waste in Massachusetts, Pecci said, is needlessly buried or burned: Some 2.2 million tons of material such as cardboard and paper could be recycled, another 1.5 million tons of food and yard waste could be composted, while tons more of toxic materials, such as batteries, are sent to landfills illegally.

She and others have encouraged state lawmakers throughout New England to pass bills that would promote recycling, such as expanding the state’s bottle-deposit law, and require companies to cover the costs of their products’ disposal, such as a recently passed bill in Maine.

“There’s an overall injustice of cities and towns paying for this pollution,” she said. “It’s not an accident we’re not seeing proposals for new landfills in affluent towns in Massachusetts.”

In Dalton, where Casella has promised to pay the town $71 million over 25 years if officials support the landfill, the proposal has divided its 900 residents.

Last month, Town Meeting members approved by just five votes an extension of a temporary emergency zoning rule that gives Dalton officials the option of trying to stop the project. Officials in neighboring towns have also urged the state to reject the proposal, raising concerns about everything from traffic to the environment.

Casella officials have suggested they could proceed without local approval, citing a New Hampshire Supreme Court decision they said allows state officials the final say on where a landfill can be built.

Along Forest Lake, where nearly every resident’s yard has a “No Landfill” sign, Eliot Wessler said he understood why so much money from Casella might be tempting, especially when it could eliminate property taxes for years to come.

But he and other opponents pointed to potential environmental dangers, noting a recent leak of about 150,000 gallons of leachate — landfill runoff that’s often contaminated with heavy metals and other toxic chemicals — at Casella’s dump in Bethlehem.

“This is an extremely environmentally sensitive area, with a lot of potential contamination of water supplies,” he said. “This is a godawful location to put a landfill.”



Hail and Farewell to Ruth Silman, a Great Environmental Lawyer

From The Boston Globe

Ruth Silman, a ‘multi-dimensional’ lawyer, mother, and friend, dies at 52

By Bryan Marquard Globe Staff

Updated July 12, 2021, 7:24 p.m.

No stranger to ascending heights, Ruth Silman hiked to the top of all 46 high peaks in the Adirondack Mountains before turning 46.

Reaching a different kind of summit brought her renown within Boston’s legal community, though, when five years ago she became the first woman named managing partner of Nixon Peabody’s Boston office. As an attorney focusing on environmental issues, simply landing a job at the firm in 2000 had expanded her horizons.

“All of a sudden I had this national reach,” she said in 2017. “I had the opportunity to work on cases from New England to California. There were so many clean-air cases to work on, I felt like a kid in a candy store.”

Ms. Silman, who became a board member of a nonprofit that lends assistance to cancer patients long before her own cancer diagnosis, died June 30 in her Harvard home. She was 52.

“She was multi-dimensional in a way that allowed her to shine in so many different ways,” said her friend and colleague Sarah Connolly, a Nixon Peabody partner.

“Ruth wasn’t just a lawyer and a mom. She was an amazing lawyer, a wonderful mom,” Connolly added. “She was an outdoors enthusiast and was committed to her causes, to her friends. The list goes on and on and on.”

It may have come as a surprise to some in the legal community that the attorney part of that list was initially somewhat tentative. Ms. Silman said in the 2017 interview with the Boston Bar Association that she hadn’t planned to practice law when, drawn by the intellectual challenge, she attended the Boston University School of Law.

Then during a class in her first semester, a professor “started talking about a toxic tort case that he was working on, and honestly, my entire career path became clear. I thought: I could do that for a living. I could investigate. I could figure out the law and the policy. I could help people. I could clean up the environment. Being an attorney was an opportunity to do all of that.”

After graduating in 1994, she spent a year in the environmental protection division of the state attorney general’s office, then 4½ years with the Boston firm Anderson & Kreiger before Nixon Peabody hired her.

“Ruth was amazing. It’s actually hard for me to put that in the past tense,” said her friend Paul Bouton, who also is a partner at Nixon Peabody. “She knew the law and she knew the business, but it was her ability to really make a meaningful connection with people that made her very, very effective.”

Bouton said the two worked together on thousands of affordable-housing units that were “either being preserved or being built,” and he recalled that she participated in a Zoom call about a month ago for a proposed development in Cambridge.

Even though her health was failing, “she felt like, ‘Dammit, I’m going to help this client get this one approved,’ ” he said.

On a personal level, “I knew she was somebody who was a real friend — if I needed to talk about something, she was always there,” Bouton said. “And plus, by the way, she was a blast to be around. She was someone who you’d cherish the time you had with her.”

Born in 1968 in White Plains, N.Y., Ruth Hilary Silman was the youngest of three children and grew up in Ardsley, N.Y., and Great Barrington.

Her mother is Roberta Karpel Silman, a writer. Her father was Robert Silman, a well-known structural engineer whose projects included preserving the Survivors’ Staircase from the World Trade Center and conceiving of a way to prevent Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater house in Pennsylvania from collapsing.

In her childhood and teen years, Ms. Silman was known for keeping up with older family members on long hikes, honing her musical gifts as a violinist, and developing culinary talents as a baker.

At the North Country Camps in the Adirondacks, she reveled in a love of nature and met Tim Clark, her future husband, when they were children.

Their friendship started slowly. “She had a thing for my best friend,” he said. “She had no interest in me at the time.” Neither did they exactly race into anything after reconnecting later. “We dated for about eight years before we got married,” he said, adding that “we were pretty well committed fairly early on.”

Ms. Silman was a government major at Cornell University, from which she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1990. She spent a year skiing in Steamboat Springs, Colo., before law school.

As an attorney, “she saw the law, and in particular zoning, and in particular Boston zoning, as a puzzle, as something to be understood and mastered,” said Clark, who has served as a Harvard selectman.

At Nixon Peabody, along with handling initiatives such as the redevelopment of Boston’s Old Colony housing project, Ms. Silman faced a formidable task upon becoming managing partner when the firm upgraded and expanded its offices.

Those at the firm refer to the 53 State St. offices “as the house that Ruth built,” Bouton said. “That space is spectacular, and it’s almost entirely because of Ruth.”

Although her professional achievements were numerous, Ms. Silman also spent countless hours with her family, raising her children, Phoebe and Jacob, with her husband.

A few nights before Ms. Silman died, she “told me that Phoebe and I have been her greatest achievements,” Jacob said in a reflection during his mother’s memorial service.

“Mom taught me patience, she taught me kindness,” he said, adding that “I’ve smiled more than I’ve cried since she’s passed, and yeah, everything reminds me of her, but that’s okay. I see her smile everywhere.”

In addition to her husband and children, all of Harvard, Ms. Silman leaves her mother, of Great Barrington, and her siblings, Joshua of Fairfax, Vt., and Miriam of Lexington, Ky.

A celebration of Ms. Silman’s life and work will be announced.

“I think the thing that was so inspiring about Ruth is that she was engaged in a lot of things, and there was a through line of the environment and the natural world and making the world a better place,” Miriam said.

Among the ways Ms. Silman did that was serving on the board of the Virginia Thurston Healing Garden Cancer Support Center in Harvard for about 17 years, beginning more than a decade before the first of the two cancer diagnoses.

“She was a bright light and full of energy and had such a positive outlook,” said Meg Koch, who served with Ms. Silman on the board before becoming the center’s executive director.

“Ruth always was methodical in her analysis of a problem. She was able to see through the weeds to what was really important,” Koch said, adding that when Ms. Silman offered her opinion to the center’s leaders, “She did that with grace, she did it with diplomacy, and she was always right in how she advised us. And she was fun and funny and fashionable.”

Earlier this year, Ms. Silman was interviewed for a video about how cancer patients were faring during the pandemic. Ever the lawyer, her observations were as pragmatic as they were peaceful.

“Today’s a good day. I was able to go cross-country skiing for a short time,” she said.

“I’m alive. I can breathe,” she added, “so today is good.”

“All Politics is Local,” Including Wetlands Protection

From the Hampshire Gazette

Hadley Select Board axes conservation chairwoman in permit spat


Staff Writer

Published: 7/8/2021 4:50:12 PM

HADLEY — Citing complaints about onerous oversight of wetlands rules by the Conservation Commission, and suggesting commissioners are not playing on “Team Hadley,” the Select Board chose Wednesday not to reappoint its chairwoman.

Even with resignation threats from remaining members of the commission and the lone conservation staff member if the Select Board cut membership, the board voted 4-1 to reduce the commission from seven to six members and remove its chairwoman, Paulette Kuzdeba. Select Board members Jane Nevinsmith cast the dissenting vote.

“It seems the Conservation Commission is just not helping the public to help move everything through smoothly, to give them their permits and to get their jobs done,” Select Board member John Waskiewicz said.

Waskiewicz came up with the idea of trimming the commission, making it more streamlined, after receiving more than two dozen complaints about the commission’s work.

“All the complaints I’ve gotten, most of them from farmers in town, is that it’s a customer-service issue,” Select Board Chairman David J. Fill said.

Board member Amy Parsons said that the complaints include that members of the commission are unwilling to assist their fellow residents.

“When we’re here, we’re Team Hadley, that is who we are, that is what we are. I don’t care about your political affiliation, I don’t care about anything else,” Parsons said. “I’m Team Hadley, and I’m here for the town.”

Board member Joyce Chunglo said she has no problem with the knowledge and background of those serving, but the Conservation Commission is not getting residents through permitting easily.

“What I have found, and what I am disturbed about, our citizens of Hadley, when they have gone to the (Conservation Commission), have not had good relations with them in guiding them through the processes they have had,” Chunglo said.

Kuzdeba, though, defended the commission, especially with a growing caseload as it has been charged with regulating campers and docks along the Connecticut River.

“We are very helpful to people in working with them,” said Kuzdeba, a member of the commission since 2006.

She said commission members are dedicated team players working long hours, and just four permits have been denied since 1973. Kuzdeba added that removing her without just cause could be a violation of federal and civil rights and interference with her legal duties under the Massachusetts Wetlands Act and the town wetlands bylaw.

Prior to the meeting, Kuzdeba said she was being made a scapegoat by one property owner upset about his riverside site being limited to two campers. She said she had no opportunity to respond to him or even know what the other complaints are.

“This is their way of getting rid of me, plain and simple,” she said. “They’ve never contacted me about reducing the number of members.”


Two Conservation Commission members, Toni Lyn Morelli and Jim Hafner, submitted their resignations in protest Thursday.

Morelli said she was “flabbergasted” at the Select Board’s action and described the loss of Kuzdeba as devastating.

“At the very least this feels like a very bad process,” Morelli said, adding that the commission never turns down anyone’s project, but does promote protection of plants and wildlife, air and water, especially on the Connecticut River.

“It has a chilling effect that dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers appear to face sanction and have the Select Board sort of question their integrity and intent,” Hafner said.

The departures could possibly hold up projects that the commission has begun reviewing, including the state Department of Transportation’s widening of Route 9,

Though a decision was made, Kuzdeba said, “My attitude is I’ve already been reappointed.”

In fact, her reappointment was part of a consent agenda adopted by the board at its June 23 meeting, even though Fill told her otherwise in a text message that night, arguing that her name and that of member Stephen Szymkowicz had been withheld.

“I believe Mr. Fill exceeded his authority stating such and acting unilaterally on behalf of the Select Board without their input on the matter, thus violating his sworn duty to the Select Board and the town,” Kuzdeba said.

She also alleged that board members may have talked about the decision on reducing the size of the commission outside the meeting, a violation of the Open Meeting Law.

In May, a former member of the town’s Select Board alleged the current board violated the state’s Open Meeting Law when it adopted a new policy related to COVID-19 vaccinations and access to municipal buildings.

‘Malicious attack’

Mark Dunn, an elected member of the Planning Board, said the Conservation Commission plays a vital role in maintaining, conserving and protecting the environment.

“They’ve got the long view, and I don’t think we should cut them off at the knees,” Dunn said.

Planning Board Clerk William Dwyer said the commission’s expertise is an essential part of the town’s volunteer government.

“I am concerned you are trying to redesign the town’s land permitting use system on the fly,” Dwyer said. A consequence could be the need to hire a conservation director at significant expense to the town, he said.

Conservation staff member Janice Stone, hired by former commission chairwoman Alexandra Dawson in 2005, called the decision to dismantle the commission “a malicious attack on a great conservation chair.”

“She is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in and she knows the wetlands regulations,” Stone said. “She is irreplaceable.”

Andy Morris-Friedman, who lost his position on the Community Preservation Act Committee a year ago, said Hadley should move to have more officials elected to avoid the “capricious whim” of Select Board appointments.

“All you have to do is disagree with the Select Board and they don’t reappoint you,” Morris-Friedman said. “Believe me, I know.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at