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Gravel Working Group

Minutes of April 17, 2014

Chair Gary McFarland called the meeting to order at 7:01 PM.

Present were work group members Steve Salsbury, Gary McFarland, Michael Jordan, Richard McMullen, Perry Fowler, Jay Fowler, Donald Bamman, Valerie Sprague, David Legere (arrived 7:10); Secretary Stu Marckoon, Planning Board Chair John Holt, Appeals Board Member Jon VanAmringe and Cathie Gaianguest

Minutes of March 20, 2014 Michael Jordan moved to approve the minutes as presented. Steve Salsbury 2nd . Vote in favor was unanimous.

Water Quality / Monitoring Discussion Gary said the topic is one of the bigger issues in the latest gravel ordinance. Steve asked Don Bamman why the Planning Board thought it was important to implement the changes to the ordinance. Don said the Planning Board received feedback from residents with concerns about the quality and quantity of groundwater, and the changes were not based on scientific evidence. Jay Fowler asked about past tests. Don said there hasn't been any contamination reported in the past. Jay recounted that one well was contaminated near his pit, but it was due to an animal issue. He said they wanted to know ahead of opening their pit whether wells were clear or not. He said a study done 30-to-35 years ago showed that the water in Lamoine's aquifer originated in the Lucerne area and drains out at the head of the Jordan River.

Perry Fowler asked if gravel removal affects the water quantity. He said the town has never defined or differentiated between water from a perched table and water from the aquifer, and they are two different things. Gary asked if the Planning Board had defined a perched table. Don said no. He said the Cold Spring Water Company source is from a perched table. He said there have been no scientific studies that show a problem with either quantity or quality. He said operations are getting larger, and there is the potential for change.

Gary said the Wells around the closed landfill are being monitored by the town. Stu Marckoon explained how the residential water testing program works. Gary said there was a problem with the water at the former Anderson property which the town ended up purchasing. Steve asked if the tested residential wells meet the drinking water standard. Stu said all but one which tested high for iron and manganese and the town has purchased a water filter system for the homeowner.

Jay said there is a lot of iron in the dirt from Lamoine. He asked if Cold Spring Water Company water tested high for iron. John Holt said it did not. Jay said there are a lot of iron pockets in one of the Gott pit areas. Perry said exploring the pit faces causes the iron to run out. Jay gave an anecdote of a project in Trenton where iron from Lamoine gravel showed up. There were several stories of wells in all parts of town testing high in iron.

Don said water quality testing requirements were included in the ordinance because of public concern. He said the state does not talk about water quality testing. Valerie Sprague said the 1983 Gerber Report stresses protecting water quality. She said the gravel acts as a filter. She said if a person wants to establish a gravel pit, it would be in their own best interest to know that what they are doing would not harm the groundwater. She said the water should be protected and a lot of people are concerned about water quality. Mike said the conclusion from the Gerber Report was an increase in the separation distance of the pit floor to groundwater from 2-feet to 5-feet.

David Legere said there are two issues. He said the greater the amount of gravel dug, the more the water level goes down. Mike said that was not correct. A discussion followed regarding monitoring wells and how they function and what the state monitoring well requirement is.

Perry said the standard for a water quality test in a gravel pit is different from a home water test standard. He said the pit standard is extensive and requires more testing. Don said he didn't think the Planning Board established the criteria. Rev. Holt said those came from a test that SW Cole performed on the Gott/Stephens lot. He said they test for petroleum issues and if there is surface activity that might result in pollution Stu said the town residential well tests cost about $350.00. There was a discussion about testing methods.

Valerie asked how gravel pits affect the quantity of water. Jay said the aquifer water originates in Lucerne and there is a lot of water in the Lane Construction area in Hancock. He said an estimated 7,500 gallons a day drains from the aquifer into the Jordan River. He said the water level in the pit he operates varies 13-to-14 inches depending on how dry the weather is. He said they lost access to a lot of gravel when the depth was increased from 2-feet to 5-feet.

Valerie said she didn't know how the town could ignore the recommendations in the Gerber Report. Don said perhaps the ordinance could fine tune what the water is tested for. A discussion followed on the frequency of tests.

Rev. Holt said unless there is a base line, the town cannot monitor what happens. He said there is logic of the request in the ordinance. Perry said he is OK with having the first, baseline test, but not every year as the testing is very costly. Richard McMullen said there are loaders and dump trucks in the gravel its every day, but a car accident would cause more pollution than the activity in a gravel pit. He asked what water quality changes in a pit. He said there is more activity at the general store than there is in a pit.

Valerie said it's how the gravel is being taken away that has an effect on the esker. David said the gravel industry is the only industry that is removing the water filter. Mike said he did not disagree with having a baseline test, but a water quality test every five years should be sufficient. He said a pit does not need 8-to-9 wells for one pit. He said one well should be sufficient for testing water quality. He said farms and blueberry fields do way more harm to groundwater than a gravel pit. He said lawn fertilizer is more dangerous than a dump truck.

Perry asked what would happen if a test in five years showed that all kinds of things showed up, but he didn't cause that. He asked what the town would do to him. Rev. Holt said the ordinance does not deal with that. He suggested using the DEP to find the source of contamination. Richard said it sounds like the gravel industry is being asked to test the whole town for water.

Don asked if there was any consensus on water quality testing. Jay said the pit owners are willing to do some, but not $2,000 to $3,000 worth every year. A brief discussion followed on what to test for.

Steve said the DEP requires gravel operations below the water table to test for all sorts of things and read the parameters. He said there is such an operation in Blue Hill where the restoration plan is to create a lake. A discussion followed about where the Lamoine gravel is located. Steve said the state does not require quality testing for those pits above the water table. He said 5-feet of separation is OK with the state, as they consider areas below 5-feet to be sterile. He said the water cleansing takes place in the top 5-feet of material. He said the idea of having one well every 5-acres was pulled out of thin air. Don said that was modeled after the state requirement. A review and discussion of some standards followed.

Perry said the Planning Board discussed well placement. Dona said there might be room to negotiate on the number of wells. Stu said a key word in the state rules is un-reclaimed land. A brief discussion followed about the number of wells required for a permitted area vs. the number on un-reclaimed land.

Rev. Holt said some of the pits already comply with the water monitoring requirements. A discussion followed regarding water testing at all the required wells. Rev. Holt said the Planning Board has the option of amending some of the application requirements. He said the Planning Board is interested in water table elevation. Jay said several monitoring wells were drilled when the Gerber study was conducted. A discussion followed about the geology of the town. Rev. Holt said if the town were served by a public water supply, there would be less concern.

Perry said there could be a water quality baseline established and then the discussion could take place on how many wells are required. Steve said he would like to know what the consequences were if the water quality changes. Don said if the tests came back as toxic after showing clean the first time, the operation would want to stop digging. A lengthy discussion followed on pollution sources and the effects of excavation on water quality.

Rev. Holt said there is no threat to shut down an operation over water quality. He said the reaction would be to find what the problem was and fix it. Steve said the pit operators are very concerned what would happen if a change in water quality is detected. Valerie said the pit owners should be installing monitoring wells. Stu said the worst documented pollution case he knew of was from the town's salt sand pile many years ago, and that cleared up once the pile was removed and put under cover

Rev Holt said the wells were an information gathering option and it would alert the town to find a source of a problem. He said there is no penalty in the ordinance and the violation would be for not providing information. Perry suggested that language could be added to that a change in water quality would warrant an investigation. Steve said the pit operators don't want the pit shut down over a quality issue, or to be responsible for finding the source of water quality problems. Jay said the Bureau of Mines also inspects pits.

Steve asked if there has been any decision to hire a geologist to look over the issues. Gary said the Selectmen have not discussed this issue, but it would be on the next agenda for a week from tonight. He said it seems the group tonight has made some headway to look at the wells required and at the baseline information and to ask a geologist what testing frequency is recommended. Perry said a geologist could give a good perspective about what makes the most sense. Stu said it would be helpful to know what questions to ask of an expert. The group came up with the following questions:

  1. How many monitoring wells should there be in a pit for a given acreage?
  2. How many water quality test wells should there be in a pit?
  3. How often should water quality testing take place?
  4. What should the town do with the water quality testing data and what imposition should there be on the pit operators should the water quality change?
  5. What separation level is recommended to protect water quality?

Stu asked David Legere what data is collected in the GET WET program. David said it was drinking water quality from residences and there is a lot of data. Don said state parameters differ from drilled wells vs. dug wells.

Steve asked why some things in the new ordinance were omitted, such as gates and refueling pads, both of which are best management practices. Mike said the gates were a public liability for the towns as they potentially inhibit public safety responses. A lengthy discussion followed about gates and refueling pads.

Next Meeting Gary said the renewal process was another identified issue and the progress from tonight's meeting should be reviewed.

Public Comments Stu reported the annual town meeting passed all three amendments last week.

Don asked what should happen if geologists say water quality should not be a concern in pit regulation, but the public says it should be. He asked if resident concern should weigh in. Perry said we should wait and see what a geologist says. A discussion followed.

Jon VanAmringe said he heard two contrasting opinions on whether water tables rise or fall when gravel is excavated. He said water quality beyond the gravel pits appears to be of concern, and maybe testing requirements should be expanded to other industries. He said if a problem does appear, the state should come in and enforce things.

Kathie Gaianguest said there are clear geological studies that show where the aquifer is located and the studies say there is a need to monitor water. She said there is a local geologist available and she is concerned about spending money on another study. Gary said there apparently is no baseline data. Ms. Gaianguest said it appears the current ordinance asks for that. Gary said that didn't appear to be the case. Mike asked whether all 9 wells that might be located in a pit would have to have quality testing done.

Mr. VanAmringe said he gets a sense there are battling geologists. He said the water issue should not be foisted on gravel operators alone.

Next Meeting Dates The group will meet at 7PM on May 1 and May 15 at the town hall.

There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 8:31 PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Stu Marckoon, Secretary