Good news: Newmarket’s Town Council Water Rights Subcommittee members are recommending Newmarket’s Town Council seriously consider future resident-proposed Rights-based Ordinances (RBOs). Bad news: They’re not recommending adoption of the current resident-proposed RBO, the Newmarket Freedom From Chemical Trespass Rights-based Ordinance that seeks to protect Newmarket’s people and its Lamprey River & Great Bay Estuary watershed. Here are responses to the committee members’ assertions made during their final meeting considering the RBO.
“The RBO is an exciting, progressive approach to change.” True, but because RBOs are based on rights affirmed in NH’s Bill of Rights, they’re also conservatively unifying—a phenomenon covered in UNH sociologist Cliff Brown’s 2016 “Water Concerns Unite Citizen Activists: A Community Rights Movement Transcends Party, Age, and Gender.”
“We don’t know what unintended consequences RBOs will cause.” True, but 15 RBOs adopted by 11 NH towns haven’t had any, whereas the CDC reported in July 2018 the unintended consequences of water contamination: NH has the country’s highest rate of pediatric cancers, including state and federally recognized clusters of rare cancers in Seacoast areas contaminated by PFAS, PFOS/PFOAS, and PFCs.
“We should wait until an amendment to NH’s Bill of Rights officially recognizes RBO-making so we’ve authority to instate them.” Last year, the NH Community Rights Amendment received support from 1/3 NH’s House. In 2019, Newmarket’s Representative Ellen Read will sponsor it again. If it passes NH’s House and Senate and is voted in by NH’s people, it’ll protect RBOs by recognizing people’s right to adopt them, but it won’t make RBOs official. What makes RBOs official is each individual’s inherent and inalienable right to self-determine, exercised collectively in a vote of the townspeople. Newmarket’s Town Charter doesn’t allow residents to vote on non-budgetary matters, leaving them dependent on Town Council members to adopt RBOs according to their oath to uphold Newmarketers’ rights as enumerated in NH’s Bill of Rights. Outside Newmarket, NH townspeople who can make a RBO vote haven’t waited for the amendment because they and their ecosystems cannot afford to and because they already have the inherent and inalienable authority to adopt RBOS as affirmed by NH’s Bill of Rights Articles 1, 2, 3, 8, 10 and 32.
“Change has always been achieved by moving through governmental process.” Systematic change in every large people’s movement has always required moving outside governmental process in order to right legal wrongs. In NH, even with legislation trying to address the matter, it’s legal to release PFAS, PFOS/PFOAS, and PFCs into our water at ‘safe’ limits that yet bio-accumulate and cause cancer. If the people’s Community Rights movement sticks to governmental process without including RBOs, we’ll be apologizing to future generations: “Sorry, water contamination was legal.”
“We shouldn’t be a fiefdom telling other towns what they can/can’t do.” Protecting water is basic survival. It’s not about controlling and regulating other towns. It’s about recognizing rights of water and people everywhere. If other towns approve use of chemicals that end up in Newmarket water, and if Newmarket’s Town Council adopts an RBO banning those chemicals, then the people of other towns would deal with the RBO like they must deal with any other differing ordinances NH towns have on various issues.
“What’s the point of this RBO? We’ve no direct threat.” The direct threat is that Newmarket’s people are un-empowered to vote on local governing decisions that afford greater protection than harms legalized by the state. The RBO would empower Newmarketers, their community, and their ecosystems with local governing authority to address harmful activities, even to the point of saying, “No amount of harm is okay.” So the proposed RBO’s point is its proactivity. For instance, and according to a Newmarket Conservation Commission member, town gravel pits are potentially destined to be landfills. The RBO would help Newmarketers avoid finding out decades from now, like Greenlanders have with their Coakley Landfill, that landfill leeching poisoned their water. The RBO would also help Newmarketers avoid fight after fight over harms already in town, including PFAS in their car wash’s Teflon shine service and the Town’s use of the cancer-causing Glysophate for weed control. Furthermore, Eversource’s Seacoast Reliability Project will stir up 100s of years of industry toxins in Little Bay to mix with Pease PFAS contamination already in Great Bay. While the U.S. Geological Survey and EPA determined the porousness of the bay’s bedrock, which allows chemicals to drain into groundwater from which Newmarket draws drinking water, the SEC, per NHDES recommendation, determined the project’s toxins are not concerning for surrounding watersheds.
“We should just work through the regulatory agencies.” Evidenced by NHDES’s Seacoast Reliability Project approval, regulatory agencies facilitate corporate projects and allow certain amounts of harm; they don’t protect people or ecosystems. If they did, agency regulations wouldn’t require, for example, that Saint-Gobain merely provide water filters for Merrimack residents; they’d require complete cessation of the company’s PFAS poisoning of Merrimack’s people and ecosystems. But regulatory agencies won’t ban contamination because it’s neither their job nor legal place to. The people will do so because our lives depend on it and we have the right to.
To learn more about Newmarket’s RBO, email email@example.com or visit Alliance for Newmarket Citizen & Ecosystem Rights (ANCER) on Facebook. To learn more about 2019’s NH Community Rights Amendment, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.nhcommunityrights.org.
Monica Christofili, ANCER co-founder / NHCRN board member