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Claremont, NH: Victory! Polluting Claremont Incinerator Shut Down: TAC helps build political push
On September 30, decades of committed activism culminated in a huge victory as the Wheelabrator incinerator in Claremont, burning 200 tons of waste per day, was taken out of service.
Though the company cites only economic reasons for closure, community leader Jackie Elliot says, “No doubt that perseverance of citizens have factored into the difficulties for Wheelabrator. These citizens have been very informed, diligent, and relentless.”
For over 20 years dedicated local leaders like Bill Gallagher, of Cornish, and Katie Lajoie, of Charlestown, have been working to stop the air pollution from the Wheelabrator incinerator. A major turning point for the community was a proposed expansion.
In the late 1990’s an expansion of the ash landfill for the facility was proposed, putting the Claremont drinking water supply at risk. Threatening the drinking water was the line in the sand for Claremont residents.
“We realized we needed a political push, and got connected with Toxics Action Center. That’s when things really began to change for us” says Elliot.
Toxics Action Center staff helped Claremont and Newport citizens form Citizens Leading for Environmental Action and Responsibility, advocating for complete closure of the ash landfill.
Then Eliot, with Kathy Hubert, a Claremont business leader invested in the future of her community, and Mary Schisel, a nurse very concerned about the health risks involved, worked to build momentum. This momentum was able to bring enough pressure at the state level to limit air pollution from the Wheelabrator facility.
This major victory was the beginning of the end for the Wheelabrator facility. The real death knell came in 2007, when the 20 year contracts with 29 communities in Vermont and New Hampshire ended.
“We’re looking at a significant environmental justice as well as public health issue around these operations. Claremont were used and abused by wealthier communities as a place to dump what they didn’t want to deal with in their own towns,” says Elliot.
Closure of the Wheelabrator incinerator in Claremont is a major victory for environmental justice in New England, and we congratulate all the community leaders who have worked tirelessly on this effort.
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