Friday, June 23, 2006
Tensions rise over Coventry Woods 40B water testing
As the Zoning Board of Appeals' Coventry Woods 40B hearing starts to wrap up with the hopes of deliberating by the end of the summer, the tensions between the applicant, Mark O'Hagan of MCO & Associates, and the abutters to the proposed development have progressively worsened, reaching a communication standstill. Abutter Ken Hoffman said, "There are no negotiations going on now. There has been no progress. In a recent letter from Mark's attorney, it's not Mark's priority to discuss issues with the abutters."
Over the last several weeks, the abutters, applicant, and representatives from the town have been meeting to reach a written memorandum of understanding (MOU) about the projects that will be accomplished before and after the permit has been issued. The two "hot button" issues, according to ZBA attorney Dan Hill, on which the parties cannot agree are the protocols for water testing and the process for blasting.
Experts disagree on water testing
Dissatisfaction with the scope and protocols for water and septic testing has been a longstanding concern with the abutters in spite of O'Hagan's preliminary water test projections, proposed water testing protocols, and assurances that the abutters' wells will not be affected by the proposed wells in the newly reduced 41-unit townhouse development. At Monday's meeting, engineers representing the ZBA, the applicant and the abutters all presented their opinions about how the water testing should be approached — specifically, if all eight abutters' wells should be included in the applicant's water testing process, or if it is acceptable and feasible to move forward with the DEP's recommendation to only test three of the wells. Currently, the DEP has protocols for testing only public, not private, wells.
Don Proventure, Mark O'Hagan's engineering consultant, spoke first, outlining the testing process: Automatic level recorders or "transducers" would be installed on the three abutting wells, which were picked by the DEP because they are closest to the development's proposed well water system. The abutters' wells would be monitored for ten days prior to testing to collect baseline usage data. The testing would then occur during the subsequent 48 hours when the test well in the development would be pumped while the abutters' wells were monitored. The abutters' wells would also be monitored for a few days following the pumping, to collect impact data.
The developer's consultant supports the DEP's recommendation for testing only three of the abutters' wells, stating that "it exceeds the requirements of previous [testing] projects that he's done before that the DEP has overseen." Jerry Magnusen, engineering consultant representing the abutters, agreed with Proventure's discussion about the process for testing, but argued that all eight abutters' wells should be tested because "when you are pumping small bedrock production wellsyou should have monitoring wells in place to see what the draw down is. There are no monitoring wells in the area" and the effects to even the three wells under test are unknown. Magnusen further commented that abutting wells immediate to the testing site as well as those on the opposite site of the development should be tested to appropriately determine impact.
Jerry Preble, the ZBA's engineering consultant from Beals and Thomas, concurred with Magnusen that all eight abutters' wells should be tested. "Get the other wells in up front. If there is no influence in the other wells, then the whole issue will be closed."
The additional cost to monitor the other abutters' wells is approximately $20,000, or $4,000 per well. If the water test that O'Hagan wants to be performed, as authorized by the DEP, does indeed affect the three abutters' wells, then the test would have to be redone to include the remaining wells, which increases the total cost of the water testing project by likely more than $20,000.
Martha Bedrosian from the Board of Health commented about the engineers' presentation, saying that the board would have to consider the new data presented and may possibly amend their original letter to the ZBA in which they supported the DEP's recommendation to test only the three abutting wells. Steve Hinton of the ZBA posed several questions to the presenting engineers, ultimately commenting that he felt uncomfortable with the DEP's recommendation to test only three abutting wells because the DEP does not currently have standards in place to test private wells and that Proventure needed to extrapolate data from the DEP's public well testing protocol in order to make guidelines for the current private well water test.
Scope of blasting unknown
The other "hot button" issue, blasting, also raised ire from the abutters in the audience because they are not comfortable with the currently unknown scope of the blasting required by the project. In response to ZBA chairperson Nock's question about limiting the scope of blasting, O'Hagan replied that it is impossible to determine before actually getting the blasting underway. The abutters want more data from the applicant as to how and where the blasting would need to occur, which would require additional expert study that the applicant does not want to pursue at this point. Abutter Joan Parker commented that "you don't know where ledge is unless you have a geologist map it. You don't get it from a site walk."
The ZBA continued the Coventry Woods hearing until July 17.
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