Protect the Partrick Wetlands
and our Community

Neighbors of 'Poplar Plains' Fear Impact on Environment
By Kirk Lang
Printed in the Westport News

Neighbors of the former F.D. Rich property on Newtown Turnpike are concerned about future development of "The Reserve at Poplar Plains."

Tonight may be the last chance for residents to voice opinions on ARS Partners' 24-unit housing application before the Conservation Commission. Conservation Director Alicia Mozian said she was expecting the hearing to wrap up this week.

Partrick Road resident Sean Timmins is urging concerned citizens to make their presence known at Westport Town Hall. He said there are many environmental concerns associated with the project, which received approval for 25 units recently. However, ARS attorney Larry Weisman appealed that decision and the commission's hearing tonight at 7 p.m. in the auditorium is a continuation of a new application for 24 units, two of which are shown in locations previously denied by the commission.

Much of the 55-acre site is wetlands and because of this much of the development is centered around nine acres of the parcel. Timmins and others are concerned about the impact the development will have on their well water.

"There's evidence of contamination on this property," said Timmins. "This is the aquifer recharge system for our well water. If they start digging around in there, they run the risk of stirring a dump in a place that's responsible for replenishing our wells."

According to a 1995 memo from Mozian to Planning and Zoning Department Director Katherine Barnard, there were 32,000 cubic yards of waste on the property. Timmins said a portion of the site formerly was used as a landfill. The developers have since removed a fair amount of arsenic-laden soil and hundreds of tires. Neighbors say that wasn't enough.

"There are 32,000 cubic yards of documented garbage on this property," said Timmins. "ARS has removed 10 truckloads of tires, which is approximately 200 cubic yards. That's it. The rest is all there."

Neighbors have begun baseline testing their wells, in the event development does have an effect on neighbors. "Voluntary well water testing programs have been initiated," said Timmins, "and the results have raised concern."

He added those findings will be revealed at tonight's Conservation Commission meeting.

In a statement released to the Westport News, Timmins said, "The metals are of primary concern, since we know they are present (specifically arsenic) at elevated levels inside the wetlands from the previous dumping and mining operations, which were conducted on the property from 1935 into the 1970s.

"Left undisturbed they pose little threat. However, once the digging starts, there will be no way of determining when our wells are going to be contaminated. The migration of metals into the leaching plume of the recharge system could take several years and Larry Weisman [attorney for the developers] and the ARS Partners will be long gone with their money."

Timmins said the number of people that could be affected by development would be those with wells living in the area between the Saugatuck River and Sylvan Road, potentially as far south as Kings Highway. "Will the town pay for remediation and damages when contamination of wells begins?" asked Timmins. "Will the town pay for continuous monitoring and testing of wells indefinitely into the future?"

The Department of Environmental Protection was recently asked by Mozian, at the neighbors' request, to look at the site once again. It had previously overseen some of the pollution removal ARS conducted. Neighbors, however, believe the site demands more in-depth review.