CONCORD, N.H. (AP) Gov. John Lynch signed a law June 12 permanently banning the burning of toxic construction and demolition debris.
Vermont has a similar ban while Maine allows the debris to be burned with some restrictions.
New Hampshire’s ban takes effect Jan. 1. Communities can continue to burn untreated wood at their transfer stations until 2011 if it’s supervised by a solid waste facility operator.
In signing the law, Lynch kept a campaign promise to permanently stop the debris from being burned and from being imported from other states for incineration.
“The burning of toxic construction and demolition debris poses an unnecessary and unacceptable danger to New Hampshire,” said Lynch. “With this new law, we are protecting the health of New Hampshire’s people and the health of our state’s environment.’’
Lynch said the state is working to reduce many toxic substances, like mercury, from entering the environment in other ways and it makes no sense to do that and then allow it to enter through a smokestack.
Last year, Lynch signed a law extending a moratorium on burning the debris, which was set to expire Dec. 31, but called for a permanent ban because of the health risks posed by airborne pollutants. Lynch said a temporary moratorium was not sufficient protection.
“The risks are too great to rely on temporary measures,” he said.
Lynch and Environmental Services Commissioner Thomas Burack are working to find alternatives for the materials’ disposal. Burack said a special task force will issue its preliminary report by the end of the year.
The ban is a first step in the long-term effort to dispose of the debris in better ways, which Burack called the “three Rs.”
“The three Rs are reduction, reuse and recycling,” he said.
Meanwhile, Regenesis Corp., formerly Bio Energy LLC, which operates a co-generation plant in Hopkinton, Lynch’s hometown, is appealing to the state Supreme Court to be allowed to burn the debris.
Regenesis had obtained state permits to burn wood chips from construction and demolition debris in 2003, but the permits were later revoked. It then sued for the right to resume burning the same type of wood chips it had previously used, without going through a new permitting process.
Lynch and other burn opponents said a ban was needed to prevent the state from becoming a dumping ground for out-of-state construction and demolition waste.
Of New Hampshire’s neighbors, only Vermont has a similar ban.
In Vermont, it is illegal to burn the debris or any type of home or commercial refuse. Yard waste and other organic matter can be burned with a permit, according to Darren Allen of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.
Massachusetts bans burying pavement, brick, concrete, metal and wood in landfills, but does not ban wood from disposal in municipal incinerators.
Last year, Maine Gov. John Baldacci signed a law imposing new restrictions on burning the debris, which is imported into Maine by the ton and is used as a cheap biomass fuel. The law limits the volume of wood from construction and demolition debris that may be substituted for conventional fuel in boilers to 50 percent per year. The law also established a standard to make sure the debris is as clean as technically possible.
Some 600 million lbs. of construction and demolition debris were burned in biomass boilers in Maine in 2004. The state Department of Environmental Protection says more than 80 percent of the total came from out-of-state sources.
Simply blocking waste from being imported into Maine isn’t an option because such restrictions have been deemed unconstitutional.