News

Whole lot of hole

Since work began last month, a south-end soil swap has turned more than just dirt.

It’s also turned the heads of neighbors and passersby, some of whom are wondering aloud whether the size of the excavation – at the triangle of land bordered by Fletcher Bay, Bucklin Hill and Lynwood Center roads – exceeds what was permitted by the city.

After receiving a number of queries about the project, City Administrator Mark Dombroski went to the site himself earlier this month.

“I thought it did look large,” Dombroski said at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, in response to a number of public comments on the project.

The excavation began last month, following the issuance of a grade-and-fill permit. Since then, truckloads of dirt have been unearthed and shuttled south to the Blossom Hill development taking shape on the hillside above Lynwood Center.

The idea is to trade less workable glacial till from Blossom Hill for about 2,200 truckloads of sand at the excavation site, according to a permit application filed by project developers Nelson, Wood and Glass.

The dig can’t legally exceed three acres in area or 15 feet in depth without the issuance of additional permits, according to city and state officials.

Dombroski sent a letter to Nelson, Wood and Glass on June 6, asking for verification of the size of the project.

A response came on June 13, but Dombroski said it didn’t fully address whether the excavation was being carried out according to permits, and in particular didn’t resolve questions about the dig’s size.

A surveyor from the state Department of Natural Resources was scheduled to visit and measure the site Friday.

If for some reason that didn’t happen, Dombroski said, the city will send out its own surveyor next week.

Project manager Bill Nelson said Thursday that the project is in compliance with city permits, and the firm is in the process of substantiating the size of the dig. According to him, the final amount of soil removed will be 25 percent less than what was originally planned.

“We’re comfortable with where we’re at on this,” he said. “The city’s been careful and so have we – we don’t want the liability of contaminating an aquifer.”

Owned by Wing Point resident Bill Moore, the property has long been used as a source of sand, as have other nearby sites that have since been capped without causing damage to the aquifer.

Mitigation work is required as part of the work, since a study paid for by developers and conducted by island firm Aspect Consulting found the project would impact aquifer recharge.

Bioswales and infiltration galleries – both modern stormwater management techniques – are part of the mitigation plan. To ease stormwater flow, the perimeter of the site will have a slightly raised berm.

A layer of sand and hydroseed will be placed atop the glacial till. No organic materials will be put into the site.

Still, many islanders have been critical of the Aspect study. They say they’re concerned that not enough is being done to address the potential impacts of the project on groundwater in the area, which is home to numerous wells.

Several people at Wednesday’s council meeting also questioned the size of the dig, among them geologist Malcolm Gander, who urged the city to halt the project until some of the concerns raised by neighbors are addressed.

“We’re not going away on this one,” Gander said. “It is a finite water supply.”

Others criticized the city for being slow to act, despite numerous warnings.

“I’m wondering why it’s taking the city so long to shut down this site,” said south-end resident Lisa Macchio.

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