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Protection Agency Finds Aquifer Report Incomplete



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On March 11, following discussion and review of an aquifer protection report submitted as part of a proposal to build a 14,000-square-foot retail building at 32 Berkshire Road (Route 34), Aquifer Protection Agency (APA) members decided that because the hydrogeological report does not contain certain required technical information, they cannot endorse the report to the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z).

Steve Maguire, town senior land use enforcement officer, told APA members that the report does not contain certain required technical information on a proposed large septic system’s possible environmental effects on the underlying aquifer. The site is in the town’s environmentally sensitive Aquifer Protection District (APD) situated above the Pootatuck Aquifer.

Because the sandy 3.07-acre lot proposed for commercial development does not have access to the central municipal sanitary sewer system, an individual large septic system would need to be built to handle the projected 2,800 gallons of wastewater that would be generated there daily. The state would review design plans and grant the developer a permit, if such a septic system meets environmental standards.

After discussion on March 11, APA members decided that the aquifer report is “inconclusive” in that it does not provide certain required information on the environmental effects that discharging wastewater from a septic system would have on the aquifer. Notably, in that area, the top of the aquifer is only about 12 feet underground.

Thus, the APA could not determine whether use of a septic system at the site would allow it to issue a so-called FONSI statement. In aquifer protection reviews, the APA typically issues a FONSI statement, meaning a “finding of no significant impact,” when based on the scientific data listed in an aquifer protection report, it is clear that a commercial/industrial septic system located within the APD would have no significant adverse environmental effect on the aquifer.

The specific problem with the aquifer report involves a lack of information about what direct or indirect effects the discharge of nitrogen compounds from a septic system would have on the water quality of the underlying aquifer. The APA’s regulations require that such scientific information be provided by applicants.

The APA’s determination that the aquifer report is incomplete will be forwarded to the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) in the form of a letter for P&Z review.

Because the APA did not endorse the aquifer report, in order for the P&Z to approve the aquifer report, it would require a super majority vote instead of a simple majority vote. The five-member P&Z would thus require four votes in the affirmative, rather than three affirmative votes, to approve the aquifer report.

The P&Z had been scheduled to hold a public hearing on March 19 on the 32 Berkshire Road development application. However, the coronavirus situation resulted in that meeting being canceled. The session will be rescheduled.

The 32 Berkshire Road site, which currently is used by a mulching operation, lies next to an area that has been extensively mined for sand and gravel.

Due to the APD's environmental sensitivity, certain uses, such as gas stations, are prohibited in the APD in order to protect water quality in the Pootatuck Aquifer.

The Pootatuck Aquifer is the town’s sole source aquifer. It is a subterranean source for two public water supplies and widespread individual domestic water wells.

Notably, because the site does not have access to a public water supply, its owner would need to drill a water supply well. The state would issue a permit for such a well after reviewing the applicant’s water supply proposal.

Since the town created aquifer protection regulations about 20 years ago, many aquifer protection reviews have focused on commercial/industrial development in the nearby Curtis Corporate Park, an industrial park situated along the dead-end Turnberry Lane, which extends from Toddy Hill Road. The industrial park is in the APD.

A view of 32 Berkshire Road (Route 34) in August 2019. At what is now a mulching operation, a developer wants to build a 14,000-square-foot retail center, including a 2,800 square-foot restaurant. The project is under review by town agencies. (Bee file photo)
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