Wheelabrator Appeal Goes Forward

Claremont — The state Air Resources Council of the Department of Environmental Services has upheld the right of a group of citizens to appeal an aspect of the proposed permit for Wheelabrator’s trash incinerator.

In a decision issued last week, Hearing Officer David Conley said the appellants — about 30 residents living in Claremont and surrounding communities — have “sufficient standing to bring this appeal.”

Five issues alleging errors in the permitting process were listed in the appeal filed last October and Conley agreed with Wheelabrator’s motion to dismiss four of them. However, he supported the appeal’s fifth “assignment of error” which “challenges the accuracy of dioxin emissions data DES relied upon in issuing its decision.”

“That argument can properly be considered by the Council in a hearing to determine whether the DES decision was lawful and reasonable in that regard,” Conley wrote in his two-page decision issued April 2. “Permittee’s Motion to Dismiss this basis for appeal is, therefore, denied.”

Conley also addressed Wheelabrator’s claims that the appeal should be dismissed because the appellants “have failed to allege that they have suffered an ‘injury in fact.’ ”

“Permittee asserts that ‘there is no dispute that permittee is operating in compliance with all applicable laws and requirements.’ As a result, these operations cannot possibly be causing any harm to Appellants.”

But Conley agreed with the incinerator opponents’ view that past violations, specifically deficiencies in hazardous and solid waste management programs that have since been corrected, and the implication that current violations may be occurring creates a “standing to bring the appeal.”

He further agreed with the appellants that their close proximity to the incinerator, increased risk of exposure to toxic pollution and their participation in public hearings merit consideration when considering the appeal.

The four claims Conley dismissed had to do with the benefits of recycling, emission standards that are not health-based, failure (by DES) to mention elevated cancer risk guidelines and failure to apply previously DES criteria on burning construction and demolition debris at the incinerator.

“Appellants first four assignments of error do not allege that existing rules are being violated,” Conley wrote. “Accordingly, Permittee’s Motion to Dismiss is granted on those issues.”

The Air Resources Division issued the proposed five-year Title V operating permit for the incinerator last September, about three months after a public hearing where many residents spoke against permit renewal.

The incinerator went on line in 1987.

In its finding of facts for the renewal, DES said “Based on its review and considerations, DES determined that Wheelabrator Claremont meets all state and federal air regulations, including the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for criteria pollutants and the New Hampshire Ambient Air Limits for all regulated toxic air pollutants.”

The appeal was filed by Katie Lajoie of Charlestown and Rebecca MacKenzie of Claremont on behalf of 29 other residents in Claremont and surrounding communities.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.