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Plant Nursery Receives Environmental Permit To Correct Violations

Published: January 12, 2019 at 08:00 am

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Following lengthy review during the past several months, Inland Wetlands Commission (IWC) members have approved a wetlands/watercourses protection permit for Planters’ Choice LLC, a Huntingtown Road plant nursery at which a wide range of environmental violations were found last spring.

On January 9, IWC members unanimously approved the permit for the wholesale plant nursery for its approximately 100 acres of growing areas at 140, 153, and 155 Huntingtown Road, and 23 Meadowbrook Road. Voting in favor of issuing the permit were Chairman Sharon Salling, Craig Ferris, Suzanne Guidera, Michael McCabe, and Vanessa Villamil.

Generally, the wetlands violations at the nursery’s properties result from uncontrolled erosion and sedimentation.

Last May, in two “cease and correct” orders, the town informed the nursery that after inspections, it was clear that unauthorized activities had occurred on the firm’s properties, including land clearing, earthen filling, grading, and the deposition of earthen material within regulated wetland areas. The town’s issuance of those orders followed complaints from nearby residents about activities at the Planters’ Choice properties. Newman Holdings LLC owns the Planters’ Choice growing areas.

Coupled with recent concerns about the nursery’s wetlands violations are nearby property owners’ concerns about whether their domestic well water supplies have been contaminated by stormwater runoff possibly containing residual amounts of the pesticides and fertilizers, which are used by the nursery. To address those concerns, the town Land Use Agency has had the town Health Department serve as an intermediary between those concerned neighbors and the state Department of Public Health for water quality testing.

Town Health Director Donna Culbert said January 10 that water from four residential wells at properties on Huntingtown Road and Brushy Hill Road have been earmarked for testing. So far, water test information has come back for one of those properties, indicating good results, she said. The three other properties have yet to be tested. Depending upon the test results from those properties, testing may occur at more properties, Ms Culbert added.

At the January 9 IWC session, Ms Salling said of the nursery’s many wetlands violations, “We had several meetings on this topic.” Planters’ Choice has addressed all the issues raised in the town’s violation notices, she added.

Ms Guidera said that environmental violations that occurred on private properties adjacent to Planters’ Choice properties, which were caused by Planters’ Choice’s actions, will be addressed by the IWC through separate IWC applications to correct those problems.

Besides the long list of measures to be taken by the nursery to correct the violations at its properties, as specified in a plan prepared for the nursery by A2 Land Consulting LLC the IWC added a long list of conditions to its environmental permit approval.

Permit Conditions

Among those conditions, the nursery must perform stormwater quality sampling at its property in the spring and fall of each year to check for possible contamination. Such water testing would look for the presence of fertilizers, pesticides, certain bacteria, ammonia, chloride, and also check for conditions such as turbidity and dissolved oxygen levels, among other characteristics. Three testing locations are specified. Testing must be performed by an environmental professional and be submitted to the town Land Use Agency.

Plantings that are required under the permit must be monitored for two growing seasons and be replaced if necessary.

As violations on the nursery properties are corrected across time, a wetlands scientist must monitor areas with heavy sedimentation. Plastic debris, which accumulates in wetlands and adjacent areas, must be removed on an ongoing basis.

All stormwater treatment basins to be created on the site must be inspected and certified by a licensed engineer.

According to information listed in the town’s Geographic Information System (GIS), 23 Meadowbrook Road lies within the town’s Aquifer Protection Area. Also, 140 and 153 Huntingtown Road are in the town’s Aquifer Recharge Area. The property at 155 Huntingtown Road is partially within the town’s Aquifer Recharge Area. Those areas are considered environmentally sensitive due to their proximity to the underlying Pootatuck Aquifer, the town’s sole source aquifer, which is the source of two public water supplies and widespread individual domestic water wells.

 

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