A gravel trailer-truck. (Public Domain.)

Proposal would truck in 4 million yards of fill from New England construction projects.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Pepperell, Massachusetts – Could Pepperell soon be in store for a nasty bit of déjà vu, with millions of tons of fill transported over roads adjacent to residential neighborhoods – a nightmarish experience encountered by townspeople more than forty years ago?

The Mass Composting Group (MCG) met with town administrator Mark Andrews in December of 2017 about their gravel pit reclamation proposal.

The project has the potential of hauling more than 55,000 trailer-truck loads of fill to a site next to the Pepperell airport.

But the proposal was not shared with all members of the board of selectmen (BOS) by the town administrator for more than five months.

Two months after the December meeting, Philip Peterson of TERRA Environmental, LLC (TERRA) – the MCG project consultant – sent a letter to the town administrator, writing:

“It is anticipated that approximately 4-million yards of soil will be received over the course of the project. Anticipated sources of fill material include large volumes of excess soil from excavation and construction projects in Massachusetts, as well as qualified soils from Maine and New Hampshire.” (CLICK here for link to entire letter and its attachments.)

Peterson ended his communication asking the town to review the letter, and its attachments, and provide a “Letter of support” for the project.  

Background.

That it has taken more than five months for the matter to be discussed in an open meeting of the BOS, points to a problem with transparency and communication – an issue raised in the last two elections which resulted in new members being elected to the BOS.

Selectwoman Lisa Ferolito, who has sparred with the town administrator, her BOS colleague Roland Nutter, and the recently replaced selectwoman Melissa Tzanoudakis, wrote in an email to The Candle, “I was never informed nor given any information relative to this topic by the town administrator.”

Local resident Caroline Ahdab tried to get information about the project’s status and related documents from the town for several weeks, but seemed to get more excuses than answers.

She reached out to Ferolito and newly elected BOS member William Greathead seeking their help.

Greathead wrote a sternly worded email to town administrator Andrews, asking “What is going on here with this. Mark this is wrong. We need to talk about this. Past emails state there is nothing going on with this property. Now this. I want to know how long you have known about this and why we do not know what is going on. This is a major issue here.”

Both Ferolito and Greathead insisted on having the matter discussed by the BOS, which has added discussion of the project to their agenda for Monday evening, May 21, 2018.

Andrews responded to Greathead’s email writing: “Good morning, please note that Mr. Burton has had a multitude of “concepts” regarding his land over the past three years.  As a courtesy to Mr. Burton, I reviewed his concept that he presented.  I made it very clear that this concept is a “non-starter” and would not be supported by the Town Administration.  I do not and would support a project of this type under any circumstances, as I have stated.  I have worked with him and his realtors and to date and no plans have been filed with the Town Building Department.  I would be happy to meet with Ms. Ahdab when she reviews the file, if she has any questions.” (NOTE: this response was copied and pasted directly from a copy of Andrews’ email; we recognize there seems to be an inconsistency in part of his response, however we surmised it was a typo/omission of the word “not” and not an intentional contradiction.)

[Tomorrow, in part two of this story, The Candle will report why some residents feel the town needs to take a closer look at this project, despite Andrews’ emailed response to Greathead that the concept is a non-starter.]

1970’s Gravel Pit Battles

On August 27, 1972, almost forty-six years ago, the Lowell Sun ran a story with the headline “Gravel truck battle continues hot.”

The hauling of millions of tons of gravel from pits located in Pepperell for expansion of Boston’s Logan Airport, was a curse for hundreds of families in at least three towns, as scores of trailer dump trucks rolled over local roads.

For about three years the board of selectmen in Pepperell heard complaints from their own constituents, as well as those of residents in neighboring towns through their BOS colleagues in Dunstable and Tyngsboro.

Pepperell’s town boards developed a soil removal by-law during this time and tried to mitigate problems from the heavy use of the town’s roads by the semi-trailers. Many days the trailer trucks would start hauling their loads before daybreak. 

Town road budgets were impacted negatively by the excessive and heavily loaded truck traffic.

But as hard as they tried, and even after instituting local restrictions on the hours of operation and amounts of gravel removal allowed through permits, it felt a lot like the proverbial closing of the barn door after the horse had bolted.

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