Groundwater concerns slow expansion

WILTON – Protection of the groundwater in the area surrounding the town wells has slowed approval of an expansion of a gravel operation off Route 31 south, but the plan is nearing completion.

The Planning Board granted two waivers at their regular meeting on Wednesday as well as receiving answers to a list of concerns raised last month.

The property is owned by the Davidson Trust and operated by Quinn Brothers of Amherst. Voters at Town Meeting granted approval for officials to acquire a portion of the property for the town for wellhead protection once operations are complete.

The plan has been studied by engineers hired by the water commissioners as well as by Normandeau Associates of Bedford, who are retained by the Planning Board. Both groups have approved the current plan.

“We are very satisfied,” Water Commissioner Tom Herlihy told the Planning Board.

There will be no refueling of equipment within the protection area. All refueling of equipment will be done on an impermeable pad outside the zone.

Herlihy agreed that the pickup truck that will bring fuel to the screening unit “is probably the weakest link in the plan, but we feel it is pretty safe. Any release (of petroleum products) would have to be handled quickly. We don’t have a real problem with this.”

Water Commissioner Charlie McGettigan added, “I think we’ve taken all of the precautions we can. If you’re concerned (about polluting the wells) the most dangerous part of our water system is Route 31 and the trucks that go up and down there, hauling oil and gas and propane. We are doing a study about what to do if we ever had a spill there,” what he called the worst-case scenario.

The board agreed that was a problem, but one outside of their jurisdiction.

Tom Quinn asked for two waivers, from the five-acre limit on operations and from the 3:1 slope requirement in two places, using instead a 2:1 slope.

Quinn said opening up five acres and reclaiming it before opening another part was not practical, “considering topography, materials on the site, and orders for materials.”

The site has to be worked from top to bottom, with a tier removed across the whole area.

Quinn also noted that the site is on two lots, and could be considered two separate operations. He requested 7½ acres for one lot, 13 acres for the other. Part of the original operation has already been reclaimed.

The board approved the waiver, with two members voting no. The slope waiver was also approved.

Members of Wilton Pit Stop, a group of residents opposed to an expansion of Granite State Concrete’s operation on Route 101 north, said the board could be establishing a precedent in approving the 5-acre waiver.

Member Mark Whitehill said the two are separate cases, and no precedent is set. In addition, he added, “They are two types of operation. Granite State is a mine, this is a gravel removal.”

Quinn asked for conditional approval of the plan, but board members said there were still too many legalities to meet.

Review of the plan was continued to May 19.

Jessie Salisbury can be reached at 654-9704 or