Residents voice concerns over new turnaround at leaf dump
By Courtney Llewellyn
Reminder Assistant Editor
LONGMEADOW -- The meeting room in the fire house was packed the evening of Nov. 12 as residents from the Meadows turned up for a Conservation Commission meeting regarding work done by the Department of Public Works (DPW) without Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) approval.
The DPW brought in 600 cubic yards of hard pack to create a solid turnaround near the leaf recycling area off Emerson and West roads so cars using the alternate drop-off site wouldn't get stuck in mud, as they did during last year's soggy autumn.
Since the leaf recycling area is in the flood plain for the Connecticut River, the DPW needed to file a Notice of Intent (NOI) with the DEP before work began, and the DEP states that a party cannot bring in to a flood plain any volume of materials without taking out the same amount. According to the Conservation Commission and the residents of that region who came to the public hearing neither step was taken by the DPW.
"There was miscommunication up front on permitting," Thom Martens, Town Engineer, stated. "The work started early. The leaf dump was difficult to access because of mud, and we [the DPW] were directed to do something about it." The department created a 50-foot by 175-foot turnaround area.
Martens acknowledged that the DPW needs to provide compensatory storage for the hard pack that was brought in, and that they plan to take it from the area adjacent to the sewer treatment plant and bring that fill to the former dump site.
Soil will be removed at a depth averaging 1.3 feet, and it will take 34 truckloads to move a full 600 cubic yards. Unless otherwise notified, the compensatory soil will be moved as soon as possible, according to Martens.
The Conservation Commission wanted to know how this happened without following the guidelines.
"Mike [Wrabel] and Rick [Haraty] were under the impression that the work could be done," Martens explained. The DPW superintendent and assistant superintendent, respectively, are allowed to work on "limited projects," and Martens said they thought this work would fall under that heading since it was in the best interest of the town.
"It was a mistake," Martens said. "We jumped the gun. There was a scramble to get it done with leaf season coming."
That mistake upset many of the residents of the Meadows, including Marieke Burt of Emerson Road.
"We came here after the fiasco of last year's leaf season," she told the Conservation Commission. "The alternate site [for leaf drop off] was moved to the middle of our neighborhood. This year, we had another wet year and we didn't want the site moved back in the neighborhood and we're dealing with the results of that. We got a parking lot."
Burt continued that if the proper permitting procedure had taken place, the "parking lot" would not be where it is today. She argued that it should've been built near the large cottonwood tree.
"I speak for my neighborhood," she said. "We feel the parking lot should come out and the hard pack should be used to improve our road. There will be no compensatory storage problems [if that is done]."
Conservation Commissioner Peter Bouvier said moving the turn around was not the issue to be addressed -- the issue was the fact the DPW never filed an NOI.
"I think we should have some say in where the 'parking lot' goes," Commissioner John Bresnahan stated.
"We are now faced with having to remove compensatory soil which will take labor why not dig up the hard pack and move it to the cottonwood tree?" Burt asked.
Once the public hearing was closed, Bouvier noted that more information about the project would be discussed in a continuation at the commission's Dec. 9 meeting, by which time the project should have input from the DEP.