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Hampden takes stance on GreatHorse’s petition to increase water usage

Date: 7/23/2015

HAMPDEN – The town is concerned about GreatHorse’s petition to the state to allow the country club and golf course to draw more water out of one of its wells.

GreatHorse could be allowed to utilize up to 518,400 gallons of water per day (gpd) from its clubhouse well if the state approves an amendment to its Water Management Act permit. The current maximum water usage for the well is 36,144 gpd.

“We are concerned that the highest withdrawals from the well would likely occur during dry periods when such withdrawals would have the greatest potential to affect nearby wells, and that large withdrawals could continue over an extended duration,” Selectman and Board of Health Chair John Flynn stated in a letter to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MA DEP) dated July 2.

However, Flynn noted that if GreatHorse were allowed to draw additional water from the clubhouse well, its annual water usage of approximately 3 million gallons throughout the entire facility would remain the same.

A list of GreatHorse’s other water sources with each of their respective maximum water usages include the site’s irrigation ponds with 300,000 gpd, the caretaker’s well with 216 gpd, as well as the green house well with 490 gpd cap.

Board of Selectmen Chair Vincent Villamaino said the town has addressed the issue and gave the townspeople “the respect they deserve” by hosting the public meeting on June 29, which was heavily attended.

However, the decision ultimately rests with the MA DEP, which should announce its answer by the end of the month, he added.

Villamaino said he doesn’t believe GreatHorse’s water usage during summer months when dry spells are prevalent would greatly affect neighboring water sources.

“[GreatHorse] hasn’t used any of the water [in its wells] yet,” he added.

Jonathan Murray, project manager for GreatHorse, said the premier 18-hole golf and country club filed to amend its permit at the suggestion of the MA DEP to scientifically determine the appropriate usage of the clubhouse well to “reflect the fact that we are no longer using it as a public water supply source.”

He added, “The MA DEP process is designed to ensure that our usage has no adverse impact on our neighbors. Our experts' preliminary testing indicates there will be no such impact. In accordance with MA DEP policy, however, we will now conduct an extended test over a 10-day period.”

Murray noted that the MA DEP would use the data and engineering computations to determine what the maximum safe yield of the well would be.

“This is not a political process and it is not an adversarial process, he added. “MA DEP will base their decision on science and the numbers revealed through the pump test. We will abide by whatever determination MA DEP makes.”

Murray said GreatHorse has obtained all its necessary permits to open the course and clubhouse.

Flynn recommended additional testing requirements such as ground monitoring wells in his letter.  

 “There is a concern that the proposed monitoring well network will not adequately capture impacts to existing wells serving residences on Raymond Drive, and the wells serving the Thornton Burgess [Middle] School (TWB),” he added.

Flynn noted that three additional bedrock monitoring wells along the northern boundary near Raymond Drive should be included, as well as one bedrock monitoring well on the Senior Center property on Allen Street, and two monitoring wells on TWB property.

He added that permanent monitoring of the clubhouse well is recommended by the town.

“These [monitoring] wells should be equipped with transducers capable of continuous level monitoring,” Flynn said. “In the event that the groundwater in any of these wells falls below trigger levels to be defined in the permit, the allowable withdrawal from the well would be reduced until the groundwater level recovers.”