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Lucas wants assurance unpermitted drawdown will not repeat

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AYER — While a handful of local officials say vandals removed boards from the East Main Street dam in September 2005, a letter dated Oct. 27 of that year from the Department of Environmental Protection termed the incident an “illegal drawdown” of water level.

Protocols and safety measures were recommended at that point to ensure that it didn’t happen again, Selectman Gary Luca said during the Jan. 23 selectmen’s meeting, and he’s been asked by constituents if that’s the case.

Conservation Commission Chairman William Daniels iterated that vandals removed the boards in 2005. Permits were obtained from the state in February 2006 for the Conservation Commission to conduct its drawdown program on Balch, Fletcher, Flannagan and Sandy ponds.

The commission reduces the water levels some years as part of a weed-control program, he said, which is required to keep the ponds from turning into marshes.

Permits from the state for the drawdowns are good for three years, said Daniels.

Selectman Pauline Conley said she doubts there were any vandals behind the 2005 incident. She again asked what measures have been taken to avoid a repeat incident.

Fire Chief Robert Pedrazzi, who is officially responsible for the dams, said the boards were wedged into place after the incident. Fixtures were added for a lock, he said, but none was put on because the boards are difficult to remove.

There is little point in trying to get to the bottom of the 2005 incident, said selectmen Chairman Frank Maxant. The issue is what caused the state to get involved and threaten potential fines, he said.

Former Conservation Commission chairman Patrick Hughes said the protocols requested by the DEP were issued shortly after the incident. He said the major upshot of the 2005 incident is that permits are now in line for a program that’s been implemented at various times for almost 10 years. He said the town notifies the state and public of drawdowns when they occur.

If that’s the case, Luca said he has no problem with the process.

One major concern of the 2005 drawdown was that it compromised the Fire Department, which historically uses the pond as a water source. Pedrazzi said that’s how the dam came to be under the department’s bailiwick, though improvements in town water have relegated the pond to an emergency fallback.

Overall, Pedrazzi said he’d rather not be involved with the drawdown business.

“Every time you do it, some people are happy, and some people aren’t. I’d just as soon be taken out of the loop on it,” he said. “It’s not really a Fire Department issue anymore, except in an emergency.”

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