Friday, July 13, 2007
Ferns overcomes water issues Clears hurdle for expansion
The most recent water quality results have come back clean, reported Ferns Country Store proprietor Larry Bearfield at the Board of Health (BOH) meeting on June 19. Previous tests on May 17 had indicated some bacterial contaminants in the well water. According to BOH Agent Linda Fantasia, the well was sterilized with chlorine after the May reading.
In the contaminated sample, Thorstensen Laboratory, Inc. of Westford, found a total coliform level of 10 per 100 ml in a water sample taken from the kitchen sink. The EPA limit is zero. Also testing high were: chloride with a reading of 430 mg/L versus the EPA limit of 250 mg/L; and total dissolved solids measuring 1030 mg/L versus the EPA limit of 500 mg/L.
Bearfield stated that Thorstensen Labs had worked with him to find a cause of the contamination. In the spring of 2006, water problems led him to replace the underground well head with a new model, but the source of the May contamination has not been determined. He will provide follow-up testing in September.
Bearfield met with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on April 3 and has received a written ruling that as long as there is no public bathroom and employees continue to use spring water to wash vegetables and make coffee, the well does not need to qualify as a public water supply. Site constraints present difficulties in locating a well far enough away from the septic system on the 0.6-acre property in order to meet the requirements for a public water supply.
Expansion plans call for the store to be connected to the garage next door, and the enlarged facility is to include seating for up to 25 diners, as well as an area for the sale of beer and wine. A year ago, DEP had questioned the well designation, and sought clarification on whether the proposed expansion might require the provision of a public bathroom ("Water issues stall Ferns' expansion," September 1, 2006.) Both these issues appear to have been formally resolved. The Town Building Department issued a letter on May 23 stating that public bathrooms will not be needed.
Even with the addition of tables and seating in the expanded facility, it is envisioned that food will continue to be sold as "take out" without any table service. Building Inspector Bob Koning later explained that the plumbing code criteria for a restaurant does not have a threshold on the number of seats or size of the facility, but is based more on whether the food is packaged for take-out. Carlisle's Assistant Building Inspector John Minty wrote Bearfield on May 23, "It is my determination that your proposal to increase retail sales area within your store, and to provide interior non-restaurant seating, will not trigger any Architectural Access Board regulation, plumbing or building code requirement that you provide public bathrooms." Minty is the Building Commissioner for Concord, and assists Carlisle when a substitute inspector is needed.
A public bathroom normally requires a certified public water supply to ensure clean water for hand washing. Alternatively, according to BOH Chair Jeff Bremm, a sink might use bottled water or other approved water kept in a storage tank on site. Bearfield said he had investigated this possibility along with providing a composting toilet, but found the hand-washing center and water-storage tank financially prohibitive.
Ferns currently provides outdoor seating and portable toilet facilities. The nearest indoor public restrooms are in the Gleason Public Library and Town Hall.
Bearfield told the BOH that he is going forward with his plans to make changes to the store and will keep them informed as the plans are developed.
© 2007 The