Friday, August 4, 2000
Once again, Boston Gas needs continuance for 1 River Road
The Carlisle Conservation Commission meeting on July 13 featured a bit of brinksmanship on the part of Boston Gas representative Francis O'Leary. Obviously anxious to bring a close to an inconvenient and embarrassing altercation with the local board, O'Leary appeared ready to force a final vote on the firm's belated application to obtain approval for a gas line already in place at the business property at 1 River Road.
In previous appearances, O'Leary had admitted that the utility erred last winter when it constructed a gas line within a wetland buffer zone without filing a Notice of Intent (NOI). The company paid a $1,000 fine for its noncompliance and was ordered to submit an ex post facto NOI.
O'Leary reappeared June 22 with what turned out to be an incomplete application containing a drawing that showed the buildings and parking area, but not the gas line. The company had also failed to notify abutters of the hearing as required by state law. For a second time, the representative was asked to submit complete documentation, including a map of the property that indicated the location of the gas line and its relationship to the flagged wetland.
At the July 13 meeting O'Leary returned, this time with the requested documentation and proof of abutter notification. However, his troubles were not at an end. The company's drawing was now complete, but it showed the gas line installed directly over the distribution box (d-box) for the owners' septic system. Shaking his head, commissioner John Lee observed, "If someone in the future uses the existing map to get to the d-box, they will sever the gas line."
The representative readily admitted that the drawing did show the line going over the box, but insisted that the box could not really be in that location or the contractor who installed the line at an 18-inch depth would have encountered it. He asserted further that there should be no problem in any event, since the "Dig Safe" law requires an owner who is planning any excavation to so inform the state, which will then order all utilities to mark their underground lines within 72 hours.
Conservation administrator Sylvia Willard told the commissioners that the matter had been referred to the Carlisle Board of Health (BOH), which had asked O'Leary to appear at their next meeting to discuss the problem. (See story on this page.)
The chair recognized Dana Booth who emphasized that this was the first time he and other neighbors had been legally apprised of the hearing, and that had they been present at the start, they could have told the company of the complications. "If someone came to dig up the septic system and didn't notify Dig Safe, there could be an explosion, and I don't want my property damaged because of a mistake," he insisted.
Both chair Carolyn Kiely and member Eric Jensen agreed that the board should ask O'Leary for a continuance of the hearing, pending action by BOH, but the representative informed them that he didn't have the authority to agree to a continuance. Commissioner Steve Spang reminded his colleagues that if O'Leary couldn't grant the extension, the board would have to make a decision under a 21-day state mandate. O'Leary remained adamant. However, after commissioner JoRita Jordan declared that if there were no continuance, then the board should deny, and Spang insisted, "I think it's incumbent on Boston Gas to take care of their mistake and come back to the board with a plan we can approve," O'Leary saw a looming denial, and beat a strategic retreat. "Okay, I'll go out on a limb and allow a continuance," he said. Smiles broke out on the faces of all board members, and O'Leary was warmly thanked for his change of heart.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito