Protect the Partrick Wetlands
and our Community

Department asks DEP review of Partrick project
By:Bonnie Adler, Staff Writer October 24, 2002
Reprinted from Westport Minuteman Westport, Conn.

The Conservation Department of Westport has asked the state Department of Environmental Protection review whether more should be done before it approves construction of a new project to be located on a 59-acre parcel of land situated between Newtown Turnpike and Partrick Road.

Alicia Mozian, director of the Conservation Commission said, "I asked the DEP to see if there were any other outstanding regulatory issues that the developer needs to be aware of."

After months of intense debate, the Conservation Commission gave its approval for the developer, ARS Partners of Fairfield, to build cluster housing on the site, but it reduced the number of units to be built from 31 to 25 and imposed a variety of stringent restrictions on the developers.

Neighbors have continued to vigorously oppose the plan to build the cluster housing complex on the site, and at the most recent public hearing of the Conservation Commission requested that the DEP be asked to investigate the site before further development could proceed, and provide the state's stamp of approval on what the neighbors fear could be an environmentally hazardous situation. According to Mozian, the DEP was already on the site with the developers in 2000. "When the arsenic-laden soil was removed, the developer already had the DEP involved. They already oversaw that. I'm not sure that the neighbors realize that. You have to get a permit to remove the contaminated soil to remove it to an approved site. They already had DEP approval."

Mozian said, "If the DEP wanted them to do more they would have said so in 2000 at the time."

Chester A. Harlow, of 269 Wilton Road, is a chemist by training. He said the site is known to be contaminated with arsenic, iron, manganese, lead, and mercury in significant quantities, and warned that the town of Westport would ultimately be responsible if the development proceeds without further environmental investigation and later turns out to be environmentally hazardous.

He said, "The site is now stable, but excavations, even minimum blastings will likely render it unstable ... If the wetlands and aquifer are poisoned, or if neighbors or future homeowners encounter odiferous gas emanations from their basements - who will accept the liability? Only Westport ...The complainants could charge that residences were built on a former dumpsite that was still contaminated."

We are wondering and I am asking the question, "Are you qualified to evaluate it?"

Mark Van Summern, of 277 Wilton Road, asked that the application, or the approval process, be suspended until the DEP can evaluate the extent of the contamination. He said, "A significant amount of testimony and facts have been presented to the Conservation Commission regarding the contamination of the site, and ongoing pollution due to leachate flows coming from the Town of Westport dump adjacent to the site.

"No acknowledgment of these issues has been addressed in any of the commission's findings or development approvals to date," Van Summern said.

Mozian said she disagrees with this. "I went through our findings and resolution and found seven different references to that topic," she said.

Harlow said, "There is presence of poisonous substances in the ground on the site as a result of dumping that occurred there prior to these applications for development. There was a manufacturing facility that dumped hazardous waste in the facility. The town used it as a dump site."

Harlow asked, "Where is the data that says it is safe enough? Is the Conservation Commission qualified to evaluate the level of contamination? Where is the guarantee that the site is safe enough to build upon?"

Mozian said she will wait and see what the DEP says. "We already have a phase 2 site assessment from a qualified consulting firm. The documentation has been submitted into the record to assess the data that was collected. That was in our findings. However, to dot our i's and cross our t's, we went back to the DEP. If there is any more the DEP thinks we should do I'm sure we will do it. But we felt like this issue was already covered. I asked for a Nov. 13 response because that is the date of our next meeting."

Harlow warned that the situation has the potential to become another "Love canal." He said, "The site is stable now. The excavations and blasting can easily disturb it. I am one lot from the site. I do not want to pay future liability costs."

©Westport Minuteman 2002

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