The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 21, 2010

State okays Ferns as public water supply, amends septic variance

The Carlisle Board of Health (BOH) and Carlisle Center Ventures, LLC, owners of Ferns Country Store, were notified on April 27 that Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has approved “the use of the Ferns Country Store well as a source of public water supply” and amended a 1996 septic system variance. The BOH, which made the notices of the approvals public at its May 11 meeting, had written Mass DEP last fall in support of Ferns variance and public water supply applications.

“That’s good. The process has come to a conclusion and . . . [this] allows him [Larry Bearfield, Ferns manager] to go apply for restaurant seating,” commented BOH Chair Jeffrey Brem, reviewing the notices from DEP at the board’s May 11 meeting.

Long saga

The DEP approvals continues a long process of Bearfield’s attempt to transform the former Daisy’s Superette into a café-style food service and eating place.

A 2007 DEP ruling has allowed the store to operate and to serve food without a public water supply, as long as there is no public bathroom and spring water is used to wash vegetables and make coffee.

In June 2008 the Carlisle BOH approved Ferns’ expansion. However, a condition of that approval prohibited a café/lounge area or public bathroom at the store, and required that septic flow rates remain within the MassDEP variance.

The addition of the indoor seating would require a public bathroom. To install a public restroom would in turn require resolution of two separate but related and costly issues: establishing Ferns as a “public water supply” requiring MassDEP approval; and MassDEP approval of a septic system quite different from what would be required for a public water supply. (For a brief history, seeBOH gives Ferns preliminary approval for expansion without café, July 4, 2008.)

Last September 15, the BOH agreed to support Bearfield’s request to DEP for those approvals. At that meeting Bearfield stressed that the proposed seating will not be a restaurant. (A “restaurant” or “lounge” designation would invoke additional DEP requirements.) He emphasized that food will be served only in takeout containers, with no silverware, no table service and no dishwasher.

DEP approval

The 1996 septic variance that DEP has amended allowed for a flow of 210.49 gallons of water per day (GPD), much lower than the 970 gallons per day capacity that would have been required. Ferns owners gained DEP support for the amendment in part by making changes to plumbing facilities. Bearfield reduced the expected flow rate to a net of 131 GPD by installing a Clivus composting toilet, a low-flow automatic hand-washing sink for employees and an energy-efficient washer and low-flow toilet in the second floor apartment.

The DEP rationale for amending the variance explains that “(a) the applicant has established that enforcement . . . would be manifestly unjust.” Further, “(b) the applicant has established that a level of environmental protection that is at least equivalent to [Title V requirements] can be achieved” by “a composting toilet system [that] will ‘minimize pollutant loading,’” so that a public restroom will “result in no net gain of effluent to the septic system.” Also, the “monitoring of the well in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act will ensure adequate protection of the environment.”

In certifying Ferns as a Transient Non-Community Public Water Supply, DEP also waived protective requirements for the well. DEP notes that “land used in the Zone I include Ferns septic tank, municipal roads, the store, parking areas and an outdoor dining patio.” Nonetheless, having “determined that it is not feasible for Carlisle Center Ventures to obtain ownership or control” of “a protective radius of 100 feet around a public water supply” (as would ordinarily be required) Mass DEP approved Ferns as a public water supply.

Conditions for approval

In addition to the restrictions on how food and beverages will be served that Bearfield described at the September BOH meeting, Mass DEP has set conditions for Ferns water testing and septic maintenance.

Water quality

The notice from DEP states that although “a few chemical constituents were detected at levels that deserve mention...the water quality results do not indicate a need for treatment since the sodium, nitrates and toluene detected were all below ‘maximum contaminant level’ . . . or do not apply to Transient Noncommunity systems, since the transient customer population does not experience chronic exposure to the water.”

Required testing will include “annual samples for nitrate and . . . every three years for nitrite and sodium. . . In addition . . . a sample for coliform bacteria must be collected each month.”

A cover must be installed over the well (which is located on the outdoor patio), with a deadline of May 21.

Because Ferns lacks ownership or control of the required 100 foot Zone I protective radius around the well, owners must notify MassDEP before a change in ownership or a change in land use within Zone 1, or “any change that can impact the quality or quantity of the drinking water supply.”

Owners must get MassDEP approval “before modifying or expanding the facility, or replacing any well or source.”

Septic maintenance conditions

Septic maintenance conditions set by DEP include the following:

• Connect to a municipal or community sewer system, should either become available;
• Square footage of apartment or of commercial portion of the facility shall not be increased;
• Existing apartment tenant may remain, but once vacant, convert apartment space to nonresidential use, with design flow not to exceed 75 GPD/100 square feet;
• No garbage disposal anywhere;
• Maintain emergency overflow tank with alarm;
• Maintain valve between septic tank and distribution box, to divert flow to emergency overflow tank if system fails;
• Inspect entire septic system at least once every five years;
• Pump system as often as needed, but at least every three years;
• Pump emergency overflow tank within 24 hours of any alarm;
• Record amended approval letter at Registry of Deeds within 30 days after April 27. ∆

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