Protect the Partrick Wetlands
and our Community

Who is Liable for What's been Buried
Letter to the Editor

To the Editor, The Town of Westport and its Citizens:

The Partrick Wetlands Preservation Fund is very concerned with the proposed development by ARS Partners seeking to build 24 homes on 9 acres of upland on the site. Construction on this open space could have ramifications that far exceed the local community, but actually throughout our entire town.

A recently uncovered 1995 P&Z memo details that thousands of cubic yards of garbage and waste were dumped on this property and adjacent landfill before, during and after operations of the old mine there ceased. What these potential contaminants are and where they were deposited, according to this memo, are completely unknown. This site sits above the aquifer that supplies most of Westport with its water either through public distribution or private wells. We have independently asked to CT DEP to oversee water testing analysis, which they have agreed to do. But we still would like to know what is buried on this land. The town and ARS should voluntarily study what's beneath this before approving any development. And even then they should realize this recovering wetland is stable and should not be touched.

The question of liability is also an unknown. The landfill dump is the town's, but the adjacent land which was dumped on as well, shows signs of soil and ground water pollution, and it's owned by ARS. Disturbance of the land to build the proposed subdivision could trigger a greater problem.

The town is pushing this proposal quickly through its commissions. Why, do they want be rid of this ticking time bomb? Another uncovered town memo discusses how liability is an issue and getting rid of this land would be helpful. Has ARS unknowingly bit off more than they can chew? The quick profit from buying a known contaminated piece of land on the cheap might not look so rosy now. Will people buy houses above or near a potential toxic zone?

The town could have bought this land and preserved the open space and wetlands, but they didn't. Why? Liability. Developing this land would seem to be the town's way of sweeping this political hot potato away from them and under the rug. The problem is this hot potato is not just under the rug, but under the ground. We want to know what's buried up there and who will be ultimately responsible for it.

Matthew Mandell
Director, Partrick Wetlands Preservation Fund
Westport CT