Sharing concerns about Soil Reclamation Project in Pepperell

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I attended the Jan. 16 meeting at the Senior Center of the Zoning Board of Appeals that concerned the “Soil Reclamation Project” proposed for 161 Nashua Road. I was not allowed to speak about my concerns, so I would like to make a few observations here:

* The population of Pepperell in 1950, about the time that the original sand and gravel was removed, was 1,734. In 2017, the population was 12,146. This proposal would influence seven times as many people today as it did when the sand and gravel was taken out. Seven times as many people will be negatively influenced by the traffic, noise pollution and air pollution.

* Before the Nashua River Watershed Association was formed in 1969, the Nashua River was a stinking sewer. “Old-timers” have told me that they couldn’t open their windows in the summer because the smell was so bad. It has taken 50 years to restore it to its present state. This project would potentially pollute the river again, and could adversely affect the aquifer that supplies the town with water. The proposed site sits on the water plume that runs down to the Hollis line and our fourth well.

* Ten truckloads per hour for 10 hours per day — 100 truckloads per day, one every six minutes, six days a week, for 7-9 years — you do the math. That’s hundreds of thousands of trips over our roads and those of our neighboring towns. MCGI’s Davide Burton, who owns the property, does not live on Nashua Road. These trucks are not going to be passing Mr. Burton’s house on Brookline St. Perhaps if he had to live with an 18-wheeler passing his house every six minutes, he would not be so sanguine about a project that will have a negative result on everyone who lives on or near the proposed routes. His property values will not drop. His quality of life will not be changed. He can have a barbecue in his yard, without having to deal with an 18-wheeler roaring past his house every 6 minutes, spewing clouds of noxious diesel fumes. Mr. Burton obviously cares nothing about the people whose lives will be negatively touched by this project, and obviously does not care about the damage that will be done to our town if he is allowed to proceed with this destructive proposal.

* We have a right to know where these truckloads of dirt will be coming from, but so far, no one is saying. Approximately one in 20 trucks will supposedly be tested for contaminants. First of all, which contaminants will be tested for? Think of all the chemicals and products that have been banned since the 1950s: DDT, PCBs, chlorinated hydrocarbons, Alar, Shell No-Pest Strips, parathion, malathion, dioxin, leaded gasoline, leaded paint, many other pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. Think of all the chemicals that have been added to our arsenal of weapons against insects and weeds, all of which Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, and other chemical companies will assure you are “perfectly safe” — like Roundup? Many of these chemicals will persist in the environment for decades. GE is still paying millions to clean up PCBs, banned in 1979, from the sediment from the Housatonic River, and the sediment has to be trucked out of state, which makes you wonder what impoverished community is going to be used as a dumping ground.

* Lead wasn’t banned from paint until 1978. Leaded gasoline wasn’t banned until 1996. Soil on most roadsides contains lead from automobile exhaust; soil around old houses often contains lead residues, as well as asbestos from insulation and shingles, and mercury from coal that was burned for heat or to produce electricity (I grew up in a house with a coal furnace in the 1950s). Apple orchards used to spray their trees with arsenic. Insecticidal uses of ead arsenate on food in the USA was officially banned in August 1988. Any soil from road-widening projects, or from demolishing old houses, is likely to contain lead. Soil from old orchards probably contains lead and arsenic. Any soil from the proposed extension of the MBTA Green Line is probably loaded with a variety of contaminants. Future uses for this so-called “reclamation” site specifically states that it would not be used for playing fields or residential housing. Why not? Possibly because the amount of toxic substances in the reclaimed soil would render it unsafe. Yet this soil would be dumped near the Nashua River, possibly undoing 50 years of river cleanup.

* Even one ounce of toxins per truckload times 180,000 truckloads, adds up to 11,200 pounds of various toxins. Remember the Charles Georges Superfund site, now capped and fenced off and converted to a solar energy facility; that landfill contaminated the wells in the Cannongate residential development in the Dunstable/Tyngsboro area. Don’t forget the Indianhead Ski Area, not far from the proposed site, which is still being monitored by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

One Superfund site is enough. I have not heard one good reason for allowing this project to proceed, and dozens of good reasons to deny it. It will have a negative impact on the entire town. There is no benefit for Pepperell, only downsides.

JUDITH LORIMER

Pepperell