“PORTSMOUTH – State Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, told city councilors he was ‘surprised’ to learn they had voted unanimously to authorize Mayor Jack Blalock to oppose a bill he co-sponsored aimed at cleaning up the Coakley Landfill.

The purpose of the legislation is to ‘protect public health, to protect drinking water,’ Cushing told city councilors during the council’s public dialogue Monday night before the start of their regular meeting.

‘We’d all be better off if that system was cleaned up,’ Cushing said about the Superfund site in North Hampton and Greenland. ‘To not respond doesn’t seem very responsible.’

People living around the landfill are concerned that dangerous chemicals — particularly emerging contaminants — leaching from the landfill will contaminate their residential wells. Tests on groundwater in monitoring wells at the site found PFOS levels as high as 1,108 parts per trillion, according to the state Department of Environmental Services and EPA, and 1,4-dioxane over its health advisory level.

The EPA’s health advisory for PFAS chemicals is 70 ppt. PFAS chemicals and 1,4-dioxane are both suspected carcinogens.

The nearby Berry’s Brook has very high levels of PFAS chemicals in its surface water and DES officials have said it needs to be cleaned up.

Cushing reminded city councilors Monday that officials from DES officials have already acknowledged PFAS chemicals from the landfill are leeching off site to Berry’s Brook.

He added that he was “quite taken aback” when he learned that ‘the City Council is spending thousands of dollars to lobby against legislation.’

City Attorney Robert Sullivan confirmed to the Portsmouth Herald in December that the Coakley Landfill Group (CLG) had hired its first lobbyist and would be opposing the bill Cushing and a host of other Seacoast lawmakers have co-sponsored, HB 1766.

The CLG is composed of and funded by municipalities and companies that used the landfill or brought waste there.

The group is responsible for paying to clean up the site. The city of Portsmouth — and by extension its taxpayers — bear the biggest share of the remediation costs at 53.6 percent.”

Read the full article by Jeff McMenemy.

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