HANSON — Residents voiced concerns ranging from water problems — including potential pollutants from nearby landfill— to traffic density and parking at the Tuesday, Aug. 31 public hearing at the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Resident Timothy Qualter, of 528 Spring St., said during the public question and comment section of the meeting that, while many of his questions had already been addressed at the meeting, he brought up two failed perk tests on the property in the past.
He alleged that Webby Engineering took a depth of five extra feet of soil to test, before deciding the land was buildable.
“What it does not encompass is our backyards and houses,” Qualter said, noting that he has a vernal pond at his house in the spring. A neighbor has knee-deep water on his property after a heavy rain and yet another resident near by has to keep a sump pump running continuously to keep up with water.
“This is in a flood area,” he said. “We have an ongoing water problem now and a septic system is going to go in there? What’s going to come out of that? … It’s going to be in our basements.”
Water in basements is one of the biggest concerns for abutters, he said.
ZBA Chairman Kevin Perkins asked when the perk tests failed and Qualter replied that it had been in the 1990s. Perkins pointed to Title V septic regulations, which went into effect in 1995, but Qualter countered that the added weight of more soil added to the site during prep work countered the effects of Title V.
Qualter also pointed to contaminants such as boric acid and other carcinogenics, were originally found in test wells going back to 1993 and asked what more recent test date showed. He said his wife and several other Spring Street residents have battled cancer for which they blame the groundwater contamination.
“I really think there’s something in this area that has to be addressed that’s not being addressed,” Qualter said.
“I think a lot of what you said is speculative,” Perkins said, drawing Qualter’s ire as he demanded to know why the cancer connection he sees is speculative.
“This board has done its due diligence and gotten information from local engineers, local people, about both of your concerns,” Perkins said, responding to Qualter saying he’s lived on the street since 1974. “If that is your concern, why do you still live there?”
“I think that’s a very rude thing to say,” another member of the audience interjected to the loud agreement of several members of the audience.
Perkins gaveled for order, saying the meeting could be ended if order was not restored, and asking engineers to comment about groundwater contamination and water table issues.
Water mottling, how it stains the soil at high points was not taken into consideration in the 1970s, when perk tests were done for houses of that era, Cushing Trails attorney Michael O’Shaughnessy said.
Another area resident said his house has the same water problems as Qualter, and also pointed to the five feet of soil added to the development site as the cause of excess water being forced out of the ground into basements.
“I lost my washing machine, my dryer, two freezers — whose going to pay for that? Who’s going to buy my house?” the man asked. “The town?”
Qualter has asked for a current evaluation of any contaminants in the area and why the lowest part, subject to flooding, has been selected for a leaching field.
Consultant Bill Kenny of River Hawk Environmental said the DEP has a couple locations included on the post-closure landfill monitoring close to the project area.
“The results of monitoring those didn’t reveal boric acid,” he said. “They’re monitoring for volitile organic compounds, a variety of metals, sodium, nitrates, cyanide sulfide, chloride [among others] and nothing was outside of acceptable limits for the DEP in those southern-most landfill areas.”
There were higher numbers in the more northern area.
Joe Pignola, of the Mass. Housing Partnership, was asked if it would be overstepping to ask for more soil and groundwater samples from the landfill area that abuts the Cushing Trails project.
“The most I would advise the board would be to engage an environmental engineer of equal qualifications [to those who have already conducted those tests] to verify what needs verifying,” Pigola said. He said banks financing the project would likely also require such tests.
Town Counsel Jay Talerman said he had not seen the study already conducted, and echoed Pignola’s statement that additional peer review studies would be done during the process.
“We would not duplicate what DEP would do, but we do have the essential obligation to review issues that could affect public health and safety,” he said.
Christopher Costello, of 446 Spring St., asked if there was a buildable buffer zone beyond which construction is not permitted near a landfill. He asked if the results of site tests could be published to better inform the public.
The DEP has determined no setback applies in this case, O’Shaughnessy said.
Another resident asked if the number of permitted residents per unit had been calculated. Perkins said septic regulations are calculated based on bedroom numbers and the septic regulations will be designed based on 88 bedrooms.
The woman asked how the number of tenants would be policed.
“We can’t speculate that someone is going to have 16 kids living in a two-bedroom house,” Perkins said to the woman’s concern.
Locating extra parking at the development’s entrance, and the noise that could come with it, was another concern by area residents.
“That just made sense as far as the site layout goes,” O’Shaughnessy said, noting the added spots were at the request of the ZBA. “We looked at other spots and we just didn’t think it was conducive to add other spots throughout the site that would work.”
Parking relocations will be re-examined, however.
Another resident was concerned about whether the private road/driveway of the development is wide enough at 20 feet of driving surface, for emergency access and snow removal. Perkins said the fire department had not expressed a concern, but the driveway issue would be reviewed. Perkins also said fire officials had said street names were a concern because of the similarity to other streets in towns. Street names are being reconsidered.
Christine Cohen 493 Spring St., said the traffic study was done during COVID and asked if another study would be done. Perkins said he understands her concerns and noted peer reviews have been done, and said the issue would be reviewed again.
The ZBA supported doing another peer review of the environmental study in light of residents’ concerns.