Town of Lamoine, Maine
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Lamoine Gravel Ordinance Working Group
Minutes of June 5, 2014
Chair Gary McFarland called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM.
Present were: Gravel Work Group members Richard McMullen, Valerie Sprague, Steve Salsbury, Gary McFarland, Perry Fowler, Jay Fowler, Don Bamman and David Legere (arrived 8:20 PM); Secretary Stu Marckoon, Hydrogeologist Robert Gerber, Planning Board member Gordon Donaldson and School Committee chair Brett Jones.
Minutes of May 15, 2014 – Don moved to approve the minutes as presented. Steve 2nd . Vote in favor was unanimous.
Meeting with Robert Gerber – Gary noted that Mr. Gerber had prepared a report many years ago about the water in Lamoine's aquifer. He said the gravel industry had questions about monitoring wells and how many are needed. Jay said Mr. Gerber had answered a lot of those questions with a written report prepared for the committee prior to the meeting.
Mr. Gerber said not all of the wells need to measure water quality. Perry said the ordinance says that all of the required wells need to have water quality testing done. Mr. Gerber explained his methodology for the report he prepared. He said it does improve accuracy if there are more wells and he recommended one well for every five acres. Stu asked about distinguishing water quality monitoring vs. water depth monitoring. Mr. Gerber said there is not a need for a water quality monitoring well every 5-acres. He outlined where the water depth wells ought to be located, saying it depends on which way the water moves under a pit. He said a small pit could get away with fewer wells.
Mr. Gerber said the background water quality is important. He said there is a need to know what is coming in from the uphill side of a pit if one wants to determine if the pit is having an impact on water quality. He drew out a diagram on the white board in the meeting room to help explain. He said two wells are better than one in order to average out the data, and they can be compared statistically and false positive readings can be eliminated. He said to establish a background water quality base line three years of quarterly testing is recommended and then semi-annually after that. He noted that several tests are typically used. He said the types of wells depend on the lay of the land.
Mr. Gerber said in a small pit with a small stream fairly close by, the ground water would move toward a natural spring. He said that spring could capture data for the entire site. Perry asked if it matters how many acres a pit would be as long as the monitoring wells were testing the high and low gradients. A discussion followed on water monitoring options for large and small pits.
Mr. Gerber suggested that applicants submit a plan prepared by a geologist to do groundwater analysis, and to put in separation monitoring wells at a rate of no fewer than one to every five acres. He said water quality is another story. Jay asked how many wells would be needed if the land were flat and contained a spring. Mr. Gerber said one for the spring would probably be adequate. Don asked if the separation wells could be used for quality testing. Mr. Gerber said they could, but it would not be as good as a down gradient well. He said one might have to work backward to find if there is a problem. A brief discussion followed.
Don asked if Mr. Gerber has seen many water quality issues associated with gravel pits. Mr. Gerber replied there have been very, very few. Jay said some of the pits in town are a long way from homes. Mr. Gerber said a petroleum spill doesn't take much to get out of the drinking water range. He said the general state permits by rule and the town ordinance ought to contain the same language about not polluting. He said you have to keep the groundwater clean.
Gary said he's not aware of any vehicle leak issues. He asked if there were less material between a pit floor and the ground water, might that improve water quality. Mr. Gerber said the committee asked how deep the separation ought to be. He said he's seen requirements ranging from 2-feet to 10-feet. He said 5-feet is a reasonable number. He said at that depth, the contaminants in the water are pretty well removed by the unsaturated zone. He said nitrates from septic systems are higher in sand and gravel versus clay and that is the only drawback he can think of. Don asked if the unsaturated later does a better filtering job. Mr. Gerber replied yes. Don asked about digging deeper and how quickly the material becomes unsaturated. Mr. Gerber replied that everything above the water level is considered unsaturated.
Val asked about geochemical changes in the overburden. Mr. Gerber said that has to do with metals and that can change depending on the thickness of the overburden. He said typically there is a lot of iron in sand, and removal of the overburden can mobilize iron, manganese and arsenic. He said it doesn't take much arsenic to bring water to a non-drinkable test result. He said landfills typically are typically the problem, not gravel pits. He said it's not the material in the landfill, but the breakdown of that material that releases the arsenic through an organic reaction. He said changes can occur from removing overburden. He said iron levels could actually decrease with the removal of overburden. He said it is important to monitor some of those materials. He said he deals with a lot of well claims, and often when a pit opens, nobody has any background water data. He said insurance companies tend to settle, even with no proof of impact. He said it is better to have water data to start.
Perry said he understands the importance if one were starting a new pit. He asked about existing pits, and what time frame would be adequate for testing from a certain point forward. Mr. Gerber said he thinks water quality should still be monitored. He said the worst scenario is an undetected spill. He said there is low probability but high consequences. He said petroleum generally does not clean up in a lifetime. He said there should be a guard against that possibility. A discussion followed on the frequency of testing and the rate of water travel.
Perry said unless one has a huge gravel pit, it would make no sense to continue in business because of the cost of water testing under the scenario offered by Mr. Gerber. Mr. Gerber said typically a well would be 20-to-30 feet deep in a small scenario, not like the recent operation proposed by Harold MacQuinn, Inc. Valerie asked about the well cost. Mr. Gerber answered that it's about $5,000 per well. He said the MacQuinn wells were very deep and cost $10,000 to $15,000. He said the lab tests are not that expensive. He said marginal operations will not be able to do this, and that mom & pop businesses will likely be forced out. Jay said the pits all had pads installed for maintenance activities. Mr. Gerber said the biggest problem he has seen is vandalism to equipment in a pit causing spills, and that is more likely to happen than an accident or operator error.
Don asked if water levels rise when overburden is removed. Mr. Gerber said it would be no more than a foot or two, and that's not a bad thing.
Steve asked what the town would do with the data once it's received. Mr. Gerber said once the data is generated, it makes sense to have one person do all the analysis and the town should hire someone to do the statistical analysis.
Stu asked if Mr. Gerber what he would recommend if he were to write the water protection language into an ordinance. Mr. Gerber replied that he would require a geologist to draw up a water monitoring plan. Stu asked how a Planning Board would determine that the plan was adequate; would they rely on the geologist stamp. Mr. Gerber said that was correct. Brett Jones asked how a lay board would determine whether the plan would pass the straight face test. Mr. Gerber said it's a common sense approach that can answer that, and a peer review is possible. Jay said the only problem with asking another person to review that is that the Planning Board will pick who they want. Mr. Gerber said it was out of his realm if the Planning Board cannot feel comfortable with data.
Gordon Donaldson said the ordinance sets parameters for water testing and asked if all of them are necessary. Mr. Gerber said the first set of parameters listed are generally measured in the field and explained what each test does. Brett asked if a pollution source would likely be from upstream barring any spill.
Summary Review – Gary said the review put together for this meeting was a summary of past meetings and read what had been laid out. Discussion followed on setbacks. Valerie said she doesn't agree with a 50-foot setback. She said the setback should be 100-feet. She said she's not sure about reducing the setback for smaller pits.
Gary asked the group to go through the outline presented tonight and prepare for a final report. A discussion followed on how to compile those items – it was determined the group would present a set of options to the Board of Selectmen. Don Bamman requested that the permitting process comparison be re-sent.
Gary requested that if there are any additions or changes that they be submitted ahead of the next meeting. After discussion, the group agreed the next meeting would likely be the final one. It was set for June 25, 2014 at 6:00 PM at the Town Hall. Gary requested that thoughts be sent to Stu by June 18, 2014.
Public Comment – Gordon Donaldson said he was glad to see there was a discussion about restoration and handed out a written suggestion to the group. He said there should be incentives to restore. The suggestions will be scanned and sent via e-mail to the committee.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 8:28 PM
Stu Marckoon, Secretary