By Robert Holub
House Bill 1610 basically states that if a known environmentally hazardous site is within a mile of a residence, in the event of a house sale, the seller has to disclose this information to the buyer. This bill puts all the responsibility on the seller, and leaves them liable for testing costs. At its heart, I completely agree with the movement of this bill and support its way through the house and hopefully into state legislation. However, how it is currently written, I would not vote it into legislation today. I was fortunate enough to attend the committee meeting in Concord on this bill, when members of the House first heard this bill and stakeholders were able to make their points. At this meeting, I was able to understand the viewpoints of the real estate agency, and a lawyer from some big chemical company spoke as well, although her arguments seemed less valid to me, and more geared towards finding loopholes. Anyway, the head of the real estate association stated that a one mile radius would be far too large of a distance, with it projecting to affect up to 70% of homes on the seacoast of New Hampshire. While you can speak for difficulties that would arise in the real estate market, I was more intrigued by this fact because of the sheer number of people that would be affected. If the legislation was passed as written, real estate agents and sellers could state “yes this home is affected, but so are 70% of these homes, so it’s okay.” This creates a narrative that hazardous waste possibly affecting groundwater is okay, which I do not support. This large distance creates loopholes, and it also brings focus away from the real task of this bill. This bill wants to pinpoint affected homes and be sure that potential buyers are aware of the risks. This bill as written would have homes both a mile away and 500 feet away from a hazardous site as both exhibiting the same risk of groundwater infection, which is simply untrue. I would rather the bill be rewritten to a few thousand feet (which can be negotiated by stakeholders and members of the house) so that homes that will actually be affected by groundwater infiltration will be tested, rather than many homes be tested for no reason. I also would accept a change in having the buyer and the seller of the home share costs of testing, but again that is something that could be negotiated by stakeholders and members of the house so this bill can be sent through to legislation. It is more important that this bill get into legislation than we squabble over who pays for what. Safe drinking water is essential, and I think shared cost is a fine compromise to make sure this gets done. This bill is very important and I am very much in support of its progress, however I believe it should be rewritten at the moment.
NH Science for Citizens
Department of Environmental Studies
Keene State College
Keene, NH 03431
A project of students and faculty at Keene State College in collaboration with local NH state representatives.