Report On The Meeting Of The Amherst Conservation Commission, April 26, 2023
The meeting was conducted over Zoom and was recorded.
Commissioners: Fletcher Clark (acting chair), Andrey Guidera, Michelle Labbe, Alex Hoar, Cameron Macuch. Absent: Jenn Fair (Chair), Laura Pagliarulo
Staff: Erin Jacque , Wetlands Administrator, David Ziomek, Conservation Director
The number of members of the public attending was not announced.
Notice of Intent – 46 Fearing St.: A public hearing on proposed work at 46 Fearing Street, by 52 Fearing St. LLC, was continued until May 10. The work is for the relocation/reconstruction of a single- family house with associated site work and preparation in the 100-foot Buffer Zone to Bordering Vegetated Wetland at 46 Fearing Street. New abutter notices will go out and a new legal ad will appear in the Daily Hampshire Gazette. Abutter notifications were sent originally in June of 2022.
Request For Determination of Applicability: Town of Amherst Department of Public Works (DPW) seeks to determine whether the work proposed to construct a small-scale water treatment system within a drainage manhole at Crossbrook Road is subject to the Wetlands Protection Act and Municipal Wetlands Bylaw. The Commission heard reports from Beth Wilson, environmental scientist with the Amherst DPW, and Linda Rauch, a representative of Elateq – the company contracted to install and monitor the proposed water filtration system. The Commission also heard public comment and then continued the hearing until May 10.
Ice Pond Woods Condominiums and Fields Association housing were built in the 1970’s. All land, roads, utilities, etc. are privately owned. Many of the buildings were constructed with footing drains that originally discharged to a stream channel. The ground water in that drainage was discolored red and orange due to high iron content. In the 1980’s, residents complained to the town about the orange water. The town, in collaboration with the Home Owners Association, installed a ground water collecting system consisting of a 24” underground pipe connected to all the footing drains. That pipe discharges into a 2000 gallon underground settling tank with an overflow into the town sewer system. Amherst DPW maintains the current system, cleans out the settling tank on a regular basis, and ensures that the pipes are functioning.
The problems with the current system are:
- The settling tank does not remove all of the iron and manganese in the ground water and those excess dissolved minerals flow into the town sewer system and tend build up and clog town equipment at the Kestrel Lane Pump Station and Wastewater Treatment Plant.
- Orange water continues to flow onto the property of some Crossbrook Lane residents
The Crossbrook Water Treatment Facility Pilot Study aims to install a small scale water treatment facility along Cross Brook. The study aims to test the efficacy of this system for removing iron and manganese. Elateq has been awarded an InnovateMass grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center for this project which almost fully funds the costs of the study. Elateq has obtained a lease agreement from Ice Pond Woods and is working on a utility easement. The lease agreement will also cover the solar panels that will power the filtration system. The proposed work will be set within the buffer zone of two intermittent streams. Elateq will install a new drainage manhole to house the treatment system and will excavate a trench approxmiately 275’ long on the south side of Crossbrook Road for an underground electrical conduit. Excavation work will likely be completed in one day.
Elateq will monitor the efficacy of the system from 6 months to a year after installation. If the treatment is effective in removing excess minerals, DPW plans to discharge the treated water into Gull Pond.
Barbara Finlayson wanted assurances that the town would test for toxic contaminants.
Debbie Sicilla noted that orange water sometimes flows back into Gull Pond.
Ann Greene said that Crossbrook residents believe that the orange water originates from a leachate plume the source of which is the landfill.
Erin Jacque confirmed that the south landfill has contributed iron and manganese to area groundwater since the 80’s. Because the orange water may originate from the landfill, some residents have raised concern about the toxicity of the runoff. Crossbrook resident Sarah Matthews has requested that the town test for PFAS which is common in landfill runoff, is highly toxic, and a danger to water supplies. She was assured by the DPW that they would test the orange water for PFAS and would share the results with the neighborhood.
- More than 100 trees have fallen across the town’s conservation trails. Conservation staff has begun clearing the trails. Downed trees should be reported to Land Manager Brad Bordewieck at firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: 413-259-3150.
- The Conservation Department is looking for a few summer staff to help with trail work, pond management at Puffers, and other conservation activities over the summer. Both full- and part-time positions are available as is some weekend work. These positions will be posted soon on the town web site.
- The department is also looking for an assistant land manager. This is a full-time entry-level position. The posting will appear soon on the town web site.
- Community gardens are starting up and were at full capacity last year. The town expects to add 14 new plots at Amethyst Brook.
- Puffers update – There was heavy use of the beaches at Puffers Pond in recent days with the hot weather. CRESS responders came out over the weekend to talk with users about alcohol and safe use of the beaches.
- Hickory Ridge Update – Conservation staff did a cleanup around the clubhouse and is getting started with developing the accessible trail, working with the consultant on the design, which is likely to come back in the next five weeks. The design must be done by the end of May. Ziomek and Erin Jacque have been talking with Mass Fish and Wildlife about how the town can promote turtle habitat on the property. Turtles appear to be happy using the sand traps on the old golf course, and the town will need to manage the traps so that they remain attractive and usable by turtles.
Puffers Pond Breakfast Returns Following The Pandemic.
The Puffers Pond annual pancake breakfast to benefit town conservation efforts will return on June 3, following a multi-year hiatus due to the pandemic. The breakfast will be held at the Mill River Pavilion. More information is expected soon.
North Amherst Historic Trail Update
Meg Gage, Bryan Harvey, and David Mix Barrington provided an update on development of the historic interpretive trail planned for North Amherst.
Barrington said that the general plan is to install interpretive posts between Amherst and Cushman Corner that have text, visuals, and QR Codes. He noted that the planners are sensitive to the Conservation Commission’s desire to have consistent styles of signs on conservation land. The planning group has identified 14 possible sites for interpretive posts and are in the process of researching those sites with the help of UMass Archaeologist Eric Johnson and archivist Kit Curran. That work is being supported by a grant from the Community Preservation Act. The planning committee will continue to work with the Commission on sign placement and design.
Ziomek asked the planning group for a time line for the project. He also reminded the group that they will need to obtain permissions from Town Council since part of the trail will be on, or will cross, the public way, and property owners, since the trail will also traverse private property. Gage said that the next steps include developing a time line and a comprehensive budget. Michele Labbe commended the planning group for their inclusion of indigenous histories.