OLD LYME – Excavation and processing of gravel and other “earth products” will be allowed to resume at a Mile Creek Road site after the town Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission on Tuesday unanimously withdrew a cease-and-desist order issued earlier this month.
The order was lifted after the owner of the site agreed to allow town officials to inspect it at any time to ensure proper measures are being taken to ensure any erosion and sedimentation does not impact the adjacent Three Mile River, which also runs under the property’s access road.
The owners’ earlier refusal to allow officials to enter the 43-acre property off Shore Road was a major reason for the July 16 order, also prompted by neighbor’s complaints of heavy truck traffic from the pit and concerns that construction debris was being dumped there without proper erosion controls.
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The 308-1 Mile Creek Road pit has been in operation at various levels of activity since 1988, and in May was granted a renewed Excavation, Removal or Deposit Permit by the town.
Neighbors say they have seen a steady increase in activity there over the past two years, and question whether it exceeds the authority of the permit. No members of the public spoke at Tuesday’s meeting.
“We have no intention of circumventing any regulations that apply to this long standing sand and gravel operation that has gone on for many years,” said Glastonbury lawyer Peter Alter, who told the commission that he is owner of the site as the trustee of the Seaview Realty Irrevocable Trust.
Town officials have said the owner is Eastport South LLC, located in Old Lyme, and in which public records show Alter is a principal and Michael P. Lech is its agent.
Alter said that attempts by town officials to inspect the site after the permit was issued were hampered not by him or the operator of the pit, but by “miscommunication” and the departure this spring of former town land-use administrator Dan Bourret for a new job as he was arranging a site visit.
“There was no intention by us of not providing access,” Alter said. “We will provide access anytime to any appropriate person.”
Edward Cassella, an attorney representing the town, told the commission that communication has greatly improved since the order was issued, and that he and town land use administrator Kim Groves walked the site on July 19 with the operator of the pit, Ron Swaney.
A report from Cassella on the visit indicated that adequate erosion controls were in place with the use of hay bales, plastic silt fences and wood-chip berms to prevent any contamination of the river, which in some areas is less than 20 feet away.
Cassella noted that “the town has permitted this for years with very little regulation” and “there needs to be better correspondence” between the operation and the town.
The operator will be required to submit a detailed operation plan to the town within 90 days, and to inform the town before it “activates” any new areas of the site.
Commission member Gary Gregory said he would like further soil testing done at the site to determine if any contamination has occurred in recent years, especially around a large storage tank that is slated for removal.
He also said he was concerned about the impact on the river from piles of cinder blocks, bricks and some asphalt that had been buried under wood chips.
“To me, that’s construction debris and that’s a concern,” Gregory said.
Swaney told the commission that construction debris is sometimes trucked in from other sites, but that it is minimal.
He also said he is continually monitoring silt fences and other controls to ensure their viability.
“There is no evidence of any erosion beyond the silt fences,” he said. “All the water stays on the property and is not running off.”