Friday, August 17, 2001
Town-wide water testing yields no concerns or surprises
Tony Mariano Jr. summarized the results of the voluntary town water tests run earlier this year, at the board of health's July 31 meeting. Although the tests yielded no surprises, this was the most comprehensive testing on the entire town. It really is a picture of the water quality taken at one time, and results could change region to region and day to day, Mariano explained. He had expected the occasional iron and manganese readings. The pH readings generally ran towards the acidic owing to the nature of pine and oak trees. Some areas of the town that have limestone and run a basic pH were not tested. Mariano stated that none of these readings constituted a health problem, some just a nuisance for the homeowner.
MTBE readings indicated that after the remediation work done on the gas station the results are tempering. Some lead readings may be due to old house pipes and fixtures. None of the readings showed any nitrates, indicative of septic failure, though there were some traces of coliform. The sodium levels have been dropping over the years, though River Road was higher, due to the use of calcium chloride for ice removal in the center of town.
Kirk Ware, chairman of the board of trustees of the Congregational Church, appeared at the July 31 meeting of the board of health to discuss the latest letter from the DEP. Ware said "The letter is not a model of clarity" about who has what authority to determine the septic system size. The standards for churches are vague and confusing. The issue centers around the state's contention that a 54-seat sanctuary and Sunday school should use a flow rate of 15 gallons per day per seat because of a part-time kitchen. Ware pointed out that the sanctuary is more of a fellowship hall than a professional building. Even churches that run day care average 55 gallons a day for 60 kids and counselors.
The Church's application had assumed three gallons per person per day. Ware has called around to ten towns and found that every town is using the three gallon rule for sanctuaries. Board member Lisa Davis Lewis said that we need to determine that it is not a function hall but a fellowship hall which doesn't need a certified food manager.
The meeting concluded with Ware scheduled to appear at the next meeting with some written justifications for the board to consider as to why the sanctuary should qualify for three gallons per person per day instead of 15.
106 Concord Street
David Del Porto, of Sustainable Strategies in West Concord, presented a different alternative to the mounded system for repair of a failed septic system. The system uses composting toilets and a 2,000-gallon tight septic tank greenhouse to absorb filtered gray water. Gray water is water from showers, washing machines, dishwashers and sinks. The gray water is filtered from a washing machine to remove polyester particles that don't work in the recycling scheme. It is then used to periodically spray thirsty non-edible plants in an adjacent greenhouse. Del Porto described various safety features of the system and some details of the microbiological operations that are necessary for this complex system to perform. The system is conditionally approved by the DEP as a pilot project, which Del Porto says is different from Title 5 approval.
Del Porto said that 20 of these systems have been approved and ten have been built to date. He estimated the costs would be $25,000 for the greenhouse and a total of $35,000 for the complete system.
The board of health seemed a bit overwhelmed by this presentation and wanted some time to consider the design, and consult the Web page www.ecological-engineering.com. Del Porto answered some questions from the board about various aspects of the system, but the board was not ready to grant approval without further study. In the past the board has approved some alternative innovative systems but none quite like this one.
81 Evergreen Lane
Since the percolation rate for this system had been calculated by taking a soil sample instead of running a perc test, the state requires a written justification. Board of health engineer Rob Fredo said that sample was taken because the test hole was inundated with water.
After a discussion with Fredo, engineer Duncan Brown decided to run another perc test in a different location. This test came in at 16 minutes per inch which was a poorer rate than the five minutes per inch calculated at the lab from a soil sample. Fredo explained the difference by saying that the lab's measurement didn't account for some boulders in the hole which impeded the flow.
With the revised tests a new plan was created which would not require DEP approval but, with the 150 percent increase for a garbage grinder, it became a large system which will dominate the front yard and present some drainage problems. The homeowner Steinberg requested a garbage grinder waiver on the basis of cost and aesthetics. Board chairman Steve Opolski explained that the board didn't grant waivers because of costs in most circumstances, but when the homeowners explained that the 150 percent increase would add an additional $12,000 to the estimated cost of $40,000 with no apparent benefits, the board melted a bit and granted the waiver.
The public hearing is again continued to the next meeting because Brown has to design and submit a new plan.
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