NH bill would force contaminated landfill owner to provide clean drinking water

NH bill would force contaminated landfill owner to provide clean drinking water

New Hampshire legislators are considering a law that would force the owners of a contaminated landfill to provide clean drinking water to hundreds of families who live around it.

Four years ago, Lynn Thomas' son Sam died of a rare cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma, or RMS.

He is part of a pediatric cancer cluster on the Seacoast - that's geographically centered around the Coakley Landfill. The 27-acre unlined site was closed in 1985, but in the years since, chemicals like arsenic, benzene, lead, cadmium and DDT have leached into the ground and surface water.

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"It's time. It's time they act - it's time that they move," said Thomas.

Thomas and others believe that contaminated water caused the cancer cluster, though the state says no link has been found.

"We know this has been an issue for a long time," said state rep. Mindi Messmer.

Messmer is sponsoring a bill forcing the landfill's owner to provide clean drinking water to the families who still live around it.

"Let New Hampshire be the first state in the country to start fixing this issue so no more Sams have to face the end of their very young lives," said Thomas.

But both state environmental officials and attorneys for the Coakley Landfill Group say that a bill like this could actually be illegal.

"There’s a serious concern about a slippery slope of whether or not the legislative body can deem a particular remedy should be implemented," said Attorney Richard Head.

Attorneys for the landfill say a federal court order already details how to clean up Coakley and it's not the state's job to interfere.

Thomas says time is up on waiting for the government to act.

"I’m hoping that they hear that they need to do something," said Thomas.

A vote could come next week.