Rubbish Collection and the Town Dump

Chapter 14 -- Part 4

Back to previous section -- Forward to next chapter -- Return to Table of Contents
The disposal of household waste apparently was not a problem for Hampton until the end of the last century. Thrifty Yankees did not throw away anything that could be used. They even saved "string too short to save." Shoppers took their own containers to stores when buying the few items that could not be grown on a home farm. Most waste was organic material, which decomposed in a family's own backyard dump, or if edible was given to farm animals. Anything that could burn was used in the home stove or burned in the backyard. Broken bottles, crockery, and similar items were often thrown into a dirt cellar or into the family dump. (During the 1970s, collectors looking in the cellar holes of long-abandoned houses often found valuable bottles and other items discarded many years earlier.)

While Hampton remained a small town, rubbish was easily cared for by individuals, and there is no mention of a town dump or rubbish collection in the town reports until 1910. In that year, Augustus W. Gookin was paid $145 for rubbish collection, a service provided at Hampton Beach, where cottage owners did not have their own dumps. Gookin dumped the rubbish on Marsh (Ashworth) Avenue, but years later, the town used an Island Path site as the Beach dump for many years. Here the rubbish was burned, a practice that was not discontinued until 1955.

In April 1911, the Union included an advertisement entitled "Garbage Contract," placed by the selectmen, who were seeking bids for collecting "garbage and swill" at Hampton Beach during the summer and for removing it from the beach by 7 A.M. Gookin apparently was awarded this contract, but the following year the Beach was caught without rubbish collection. Gookin, who was angry because he had not been asked to do it again, declined the job, and no one else accepted the Town's price of 10 cents per pound. By July, some Beach businesses were burying refuse in the sand, while others dumped in the ocean, although tides brought waste back onto the beach. Finally the Town relented and Gookin began collecting garbage again, but at a higher price than he had received the previous year. He earned $266 for that summer and continued to collect garbage until 1920, when he and George E. Felch were aid a total of $1,006 for rubbish collection.

Meanwhile, Hampton was seeking a place for a municipal dump, since indiscriminate dumping along the highways was becoming a problem. In 1916, as a result of a town meeting vote, a Community Committee reported that rubbish could be dumped off Lafayette Road near the railroad tracks, a location that served the town for many years. Public dumps also were established near the Cogger ice-house on Drakeside Road and at a place owned by Christopher Toppan near the academy, although this site had restrictions: no paper, but ashes "or any material which could not be offensive, there is no objection to."

In the 1926 town report, Fire Chief Homer Whiting recommended that the Town and the Precinct ". . .take some steps to stop the increasing fire menace of the dump on Marsh Avenue, which is increasing each year very largely; it being one of the most highly valued districts of the Beach." He proposed that the solution was an incinerator at the foot of Highland Avenue.

By 1927, the Town was spending $2,700 on Beach rubbish collection and paid Thomas Cogger $160 for land for a dump. The town meeting indefinitely postponed an article to have the rubbish picked up at back doors. Apparently Beach residents had to leave their trash at the edge of the street, while residents in the rest of town took their own rubbish to the dump. Rubbish collection in the rest of Hampton began in the 1940s, using the services of Ernest L. Pierce. In 1946, this service for the entire community cost $14,440.

In 1955, the Town bought a rubbish packer truck, which was operated by town employees. Instead of burning the rubbish, the Town began the so-called sanitary-landfill method, the system still in use. It called for covering the dump each day with a layer of gravel. The Lafayette Road dump was closed and a new dump was built at the end of Tide Mill Road, where garbage was dumped in the marsh as the base for a planned marsh highway to the Beach. At the Beach end, the rubbish was placed in the marsh as fill to expand the parking lot off Marsh Avenue, and to make a road from Island Path to Glade Path, then to Tide Mill Creek, where the road was to connect with the other road being extended from the west side of the creek. This marsh highway built of rubbish had to be closed when the expressway was opened in 1963. The Town then asked the State to permit construction of another rubbish-filled marsh highway to be built from Winnacunnet Road south to the new expressway, but that proposal was rejected. Instead, the Town had to continue using the dump near the treatment plant, which also had been started in 1955. Eventually the Town expanded this dump by purchasing land from abutters, and it has grown into the present 25-acre complex.

As Hampton continued to grow, it appeared that dump facilities would soon be filled to capacity. For example, the amount of compacted cubic yards of rubbish collected increased from 33,124 in 1968 to 51,760 in 1975. As a response, in 1977 the Town began issuing permit stickers to limit dump users to residents, nonresident property owners, and Hampton businesses. Costs have expanded as well. In 1979, Hampton was paying $159,000 for rubbish collection and operation of the dump. In 1988, the Town spent $275,000, and the 1989 budget called for an increase of $100,000. As expensive as this seems, the town is finally filling up the dump and expects to receive a shutdown order from the State anytime in the next few years. Since all manner of rubbish -- including tires, auto batteries, paint, household chemicals, and solvents -- has been placed in the dump, it now is less of a "sanitary" landfill and more of a hazardous waste dump. It will have to be carefully closed to prohibit potentially toxic substances from leaching out and into the surrounding land and the marsh. Closing the dump -- which will involve grading, loaming, seeding, and fencing -- may cost several million dollars. But this is only part of the cost, since Hampton is likely to have to haul its rubbish out of town to a regional waste center at costs far exceeding current expenditures.

Back to previous section -- Forward to next chapter -- Return to Table of Contents