The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 16, 2006


BOH considers Coventry Woods' effect on neighbors' wells

Although the questions for Coventry Woods developer Mark O'Hagan came from varied sources at the June 6 Board of Health (BOH) meeting, there was a central theme connecting most of the issues: water. How much is there? Is there enough for both the project and the eight abutters' wells? What kind of testing will be used to find out? Who will pay for it? What will be done with the results?

Several abutters also attended to discuss concerns regarding the proposed 40B development. The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) is currently reviewing O'Hagan's application for a comprehensive permit and has asked the BOH to comment on the proposal with regard to water supply and septic issues prior to the ZBA's June 19 meeting.

Developments that obtain a comprehensive permit under the state's Chapter 40B statute are exempt from Carlisle's two-acre zoning and bypass the normal Planning Board review. Only the ZBA has an official role in approving a comprehensive permit. However, a 40B project must still meet other state requirements, such as Title V and the Wetlands Protection Act. In return for exemption from local zoning, at least 25% of the housing in a 40B project must meet the state's criteria for affordability.

The input that the ZBA is currently requesting from the BOH is an opportunity to investigate any concerns others may have about the project and, if need be, have those concerns included as conditions in the ZBA's permit approval.

Questions about water supply and water quality dominated the discussion. The high-density 40B project calls for 41 units on 22.6 acres, with an expected water usage of 9,020 gallons per day. The BOH has suggested that the developer test irrigation wells along with potable wells to determine actual water demand and its potential effect on water supply in the area. According to BOH chair Martha Bedrosian, having been faced last summer with a residential well "run dry," members of the board were in agreement that the board "be proactive in ensuring that a similar situation doesn't arise with the eight residential wells that abut the proposed development."

"If a well is overdrawing," said Bedrosian, "the Board of Health eventually might need to pull the occupancy permit due to lack of water." Abutter Ken Hoffman noted that "that's why we're here, to avoid that kind of situation." Hoffman seemed to speak for all of the abutters when he said, "If we lose our water, we lose our homes."

"I think the town of Carlisle should establish a set of testing procedures in the future," added abutter Alex Parker. If the testing is not done properly, he said, there is a "serious consequence." He added, "and it's my house."

Type of water testing debated

While all parties involved seem to agree the wells in question should be tested to try to determine the potential water supply in the area, there is not yet full agreement on the type of testing that will be used. O'Hagan has proposed using a method of "sonic" testing for the abutters' wells, but was told at the meeting that the engineers on the board are unfamiliar with sonic testing and the DEP does not recognize it. The BOH favors the use of pressure transducers for this testing, which is also recommended by the abutters' engineer who wrote extensively about the kind of testing that should be done and how the results should be analyzed.

O'Hagan said that "we want to work with the abutters and give them some comfort about the concerns they have expressed" about water and the potential impact of his project on their wells. However, he maintained that the pressure transducer testing they requested is not "cost efficient" and seems "excessive." Nonetheless, the BOH plans to request the developer to conduct transducer testing, and will ask the ZBA to include this request as a condition of the comprehensive permit.

Board members emphasized Carlisle's complete dependence upon private wells for drinking water and private septic systems for wastewater, reminding the developer that residences have absolutely no town backup water supply or sewage system. The BOH letter to O'Hagan states: "The Board of Health is particularly motivated to ensure that the water supply which is vital to a healthy Carlisle community is not jeopardized by the Coventry Woods Development."

"This project proposes more than four times the density allowed under regular zoning," noted abutter Michael Epstein. "Carlisle zoning is based on protecting our water quantity and quality. What will this kind of density do to our water supply?"

Although the developer has not come before the board with a septic plan, members agreed to recommend pressure dosing of the septic system to the ZBA. Pressure dosing will provide an even dose of effluent over the leach area. There will be other suggestions for the ZBA, and the Board of Health planned to meet again Wednesday, June 14, (after the paper went to press) to draft the complete list of conditions that they will recommend.

2006 The Carlisle Mosquito