Asphalt Storage Questions Prompt Board To Delay Gas Project Permit

By: William F. Galvin

The sign at the end of Cypress Point Road in East Harwich directs vehicles into the pit where National Grid gas pipeline construction materials are being stored off Route 39. The content of those materials has been called into question by one neighbor. WILLIAM F. GALVIN PHOTO

HARWICH — The appeals board wants more information on the storage of materials associated with the National Grid gas pipeline project now underway.

The board was asked to issue a temporary change of use permit for land off Route 39 to allow the storage of materials but is seeking additional feedback from the health board and conservation commission after a neighbor raised the possibility that asphalt storage could impact groundwater.

The pipeline project is already underway and materials such as dirt and asphalt are already being stored on the site commonly referred to as Crowell's Pit off Route 39 in East Harwich. The property is owned by Harwich Commons, LLC; Paul Cuddy is trustee.

The appeals board held a hearing last Wednesday on the temporary change of use request. Realtor Janet Baker, representing Cuddy in his absence, said the need for the permit came to Cuddy's attention prior to entering into a contract with the company installing the pipes, R.H. White of Auburn.

Baker said Cuddy met with members of the various town departments and with Town Administrator Christopher Clark after a complaint was registered relating to the need for a special permit. She said the response from town officials was positive toward the proposed storage location. Baker said the pit is an enormous, expansive piece of land, but the agreement provides for use of only three acres.

The land is located in a rural residential zone and under use regulations this is a permitted use if it is an essential service to the town, she said. “Which it is,” Baker added, referring to the gas line serving the community.

There is no impact on the neighborhood, Baker said, with no neighbors and an entrance over a private road, causing no nuisance or disturbance. “It's a perfect location and shouldn't disturb anybody,” Baker said. There will be no bathrooms, she added. “All it is is storage of dirt and pipes.” Although it is within the Six Ponds Special District, Baker said no dirt is being removed from the site, only stored there.

Stephen Mannix said the pit abuts two properties along Capt. Bearse Lane, including his home. Mannix said he can throw a stone to the pit from his property and can hear noise from trucks traveling Cypress Point Road. He said the pit dug there in 2004 reaches down to within several feet of the water table and there is asphalt being placed there.

Mannix had concerns for the water table, especially for polycyclic hydrocarbons contained in asphalt. He wanted to know whether the town has communicated with the state department of environmental protection over the situation. He said there are piles of asphalt 15 feet high and 100 feet long and asked if there has been any discussion about testing the soil being placed there and who would be responsible for conducting remediation testing.

“We're setting up for another Otis (Air Base). We're going in the wrong direction,” Mannix said.

Appeals Board Chairman David Ryer said the questions raised by Mannix are not within the jurisdiction of the appeals board, and he suggested they be brought to the health board and conservation commission.

“The carcinogenic materials changes it for me,” board member Michael Cupoli said. “It could adversely affect the neighborhood and I'd feel uncomfortable with huge piles stored on top of our water supply. It could affect

citizens of Harwich.”

“There was asphalt there before they brought fill in and I don't know what they brought in,” Baker said, adding there are provisions in the lease prohibiting hazardous materials but allow stockpiling of aggregate materials. Mannix presented the board with photographs showing asphalt which he said was placed there in the past six months. Muller said that makes sense since an asphalt strip is being dug up along Queen Anne Road for the pipeline project.

Ryer recommended the permit request be continued pending responses from the health board and conservation commission on the storage of asphalt. He said he didn't want to shut down the project while waiting for a response, pointing out piles of material are already there. He recommended the board allow the operation to continue for a month to the board's next meeting on Jan. 30.

The board agreed to send memos to the health board, conservation commission, town engineer and the department of public works seeking comment on potential impacts from storing asphalt and other road materials at the site.