The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 30, 2000


ConsCom chastises Boston Gas for noncompliance with rules

Boston Gas Company can't seem to get out of the conservation commission's dog house. After paying a $1,000 fine for failure to file a Notice of Intent (NOI) prior to construction within a wetland buffer zone, the utility on June 22 submitted faulty documentation for the same project at the scheduled public hearing.

The original delinquency was reported by Chip Orcutt, manager of the property at 1 River Road. He maintained that he had contracted with the utility to install a gas line to the small business office at that address with the understanding that Boston Gas would obtain the required permits. This they had failed to do a month after completion of the project, so fines were imposed on both the owner and the utility. The latter was also ordered to file a belated NOI.

After quick perusal of the project map, the commissioners pointed out two puzzling omissions. The maps showed the buildings and the parking lot, but no wetland boundaries and no gas line. Commissioner John Lee observed, "It appears you just eyeballed it (the terrain) and put the gas line in." Speaking for the utility, Francis O'Leary tried to explain that they had considered the job a mere "service project," and were unaware of the presence of a wetland.

When ConsCom administrator Sylvia Willard affirmed that wetland demarcation flags were present, Lee commented, "Boston Gas should certainly know what a wetland flag looks like." Replied O'Leary, "It was a subcontractor who did the job." Eyebrows raised, Lee described another possible scenario, suggesting that company representatives might have looked at the job and decided it was so minor "they could do it and be out of there without worrying anybody." Indicating the uninformative map, he added, "I know you guys can do better work than that."

Chair Carolyn Kiely also expressed strong dissatisfaction with the company's attitude and suggested that they do a far better job in the future. But that was not the end of the utility's problems. Abutter Dana Booth raised his hand and

I'm getting the impression that Boston Gas has never submitted an NOI before.

-Carolyn Kiely

informed the board that he had not received any notice of the public hearing and, as it turned out, neither had anyone else. O'Leary again pleaded ignorance of the company's responsibility to inform abutters. At this juncture, commissioner Jo Rita Jordan commented dryly, "I'm getting the impression that Boston Gas has never submitted an NOI before." For his part, Booth made it clear he was concerned about safety when the presence of a gas line did not appear on the project map, and pointed out that explosions can occur when a line is cut inadvertently.

Becoming more contrite, O'Leary indicated, "I'm not saying we weren't wrong; we were. But we paid the fine and have tried to do what's right." He referred the commission and abutters to the state's "Dig Safe" law which requires an owner who is contemplating excavation to notify the state, which then orders all utilities to come and mark their lines within 72 hours. The hitch is that the citizen or developer doing the digging has the responsibility to do the notifying, and most owners are not aware of the law.

Kiely brought the proceedings to a close by telling O'Leary, "We need a plan with the location of the gas line relative to the delineated wetland and a proper notification to all abutters." So, it's back to the drawing boards for Boston Gas map makers.

Fill on Pheasant Hill Lane

Developer Peter Marden and his environmental engineer Jody Borghetti of Stamski and McNary presented a revised NOI for a five-bedroom house on a very steep Pheasant Hill Lane lot. The two-to-one slope will require 60,000 yards of fill, and commissioner Tom Brownrigg raised the question of how Marden could assure the stability of such a pile of material, while Lee wanted to be certain the fill was clean. Recalling the town's erstwhile problems with fill at the Bog, he informed him, "Fill is a dirty word around here."

Marden stated that the material to be used was "very tight" and came from a forested area, and promised to lay it a foot at a time and roll each layer thoroughly before adding the next. Asked if this technique could withstand five inches of rain in a few hours, Marden admitted that he couldn't address the question scientifically, but said he could rely on seven years of experience that had at times included even steeper slopes.

The developer brought in samples of recently developed erosion control mats that, together with a series of check dams and the usual haybales, he believed should control water flow. Abutter Andy Beech was still somewhat skeptical, and his neighbor Dave Canopy registered concern about tree loss. Marden told him that a row of large oaks would be preserved along with an impressive birch tree. Only a few large trees and an area of younger growth would be sacrificed.

The hearing was closed with an indication that the project would be conditioned to require the erosion mats and rapid revegetation at the conclusion of the grading work.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito