Old Lyme Quarry Owner Ordered to Cease Unpermitted Work Along Three Mile River 

Old Lyme's Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission ordered quarry owner Ron Swaney to cease prohibited operations and to appear at a show cause hearing on March 7 (CT Examiner)


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OLD LYME — After a discussion of unpermitted work at a quarry that lacked proper erosion protection along Three Mile River, the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission ordered the property owner to cease all work and to appear at a show cause hearing on March 7.

Ron Swaney, who owns 308-1 Mile Creek Road, told the commission Tuesday night that he had been working to improve the the 43.5 acre property by building berms along the river, removing beavers that had built a dam in a culvert, adding boulders along the river’s edge, and rerouting the driveway – all without securing permits. 

“We had water issues – Three Mile River was coming across the road and going into the ponds. So I created a berm with a two to one slope,” he said. “We’re cleaning up the place, making it nice… Where I made a mistake is I didn’t come to you first, I apologize for that,” he told the commission.

Neighbors Peter and Millie Caron, who live across the river, presented pictures to the commission of activity at the quarry, comparing before and after pictures from a few years ago to the present. 

“There are no environmental protections,” said Peter Caron. “They rip out trees and then put down wood chips. This is not something new, it’s been before this commission many times since the 90s.” 

After neighbors sent Eric Knapp, the wetlands agent for the town, photos and videos showing earth-moving work within 100 feet of the river and wetlands, he issued a violation notice to Swaney on Jan. 29, directing him to attend Tuesday’s hearing. 

Knapp described the area in the map submitted by former property owner Peter Alter where it had been agreed activity could take place. But extensive earth-moving and clear-cutting had taken place outside of that designated area, especially filling in areas and creating an earthen berm along the river edge, Knapp said. 

Knapp said there were piles of fill on the property but he didn’t know how much had been excavated from the site and how much had been trucked in. On a site visit, Knapp said he observed a lack of erosion controls in and around the ponds on the property.

“In 2022 the ponds had turtles and other wildlife. Now they could not exist with the level of siltation there,” Knapp said.

Swaney also owns an adjacent 2.5-acre parcel abutting at 304 Mile Creek Road where Knapp said Swaney has been clear cutting within 100 feet of the river. 

Swaney said he wanted to move the driveway entrance onto the adjacent property, further away from Union Chapel on Shore Road.

“It was a good neighbor thing. I thought it would be a nice thing to do, out of respect for the church,” Swaney told the commission. 

But Rachael Gaudio, chair of the commission, told Swaney that they had made it clear to him in 2022 that he needed to apply for permits before proceeding with any work. 

“The issue I have is that we went through this whole song dance before and you said maybe your big mistake was not coming to us sooner. I think we made it very clear in 2022, that you needed to come to us and ask for permission not forgiveness, I’m really disappointed that this is where we are right now,” she said. 

Gaudio said that all of the work was within 100 feet of the wetlands, as well as outside of the area the commission had previously approved, and the level of work being done seemed to be increasing. She added that Swaney also did not secure the permit required to clear beaver dams. 

She said that in her tenure on the commission, starting in 2017 she’d never had to deal with another property owner who had to return to commission on multiple occasions.

“And now we’re looking at huge enforcement action and potential litigation. That’s where this road leads to,” she said. 

Swaney defended a number of his actions, and said that there had been no erosion on the property and that when he had been asked to put up silt fences, he had done so. 

Gaudio said there were a number of issues and that throughout Swaney failed to apply for necessary permits in the areas regulated by the commission. 

The commission moved unanimously to issue a cease and desist order. Before the March 7 hearing, Swaney will be required to retain a soil scientist to prepare a restoration plan to address the work done in the regulated area without permits, which will also identify the types and possible origins of the fill used on the site. 

Michael Aurelia, a new member of the commission, said he believed in working with individual owners before moving to cease and desist, and to give Swaney a month to submit an application for permits. 

But commission member Mike Miller said that Wetlands had tried to work with Swaney and “we are beyond the point of letting a new application come in as if this was a brand new discovery.” 

Knapp said that Swaney could submit an application but the next step was a “thorough evaluation of what has occurred to understand what work Swaney has done to the site, especially how much and what type of fill was added. 

“We need better information, and until we have better information, I think that the best answer is don’t allow further work because that’s what got us where we are today,” Knapp said. 

Gaudio warned that if the commission hears that work is being done on the site, they will start litigation.