WVN Newsletter #202: Town violates water regulations
- Dear Wayland Voter,
A plan to install artificial turf at the high school has led to a state
finding that Wayland is violating drinking water regulations. This
raises questions not only about the turf project but about how
the Water Department has been run in recent years.
WAYLAND IN VIOLATION
The Wayland Boosters' proposal to replace the grass at the
football field set off a chain of events that culminated in a Feb. 5
letter from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental
Protection. Ruling after visiting the site of the Happy Hollow
wells in response to a residents' appeal, the DEP said that
Wayland is in violation of state regulations in seven ways
including the drainage from the football field and runoff from
adjacent parking. The DEP requires a mitigation plan by June 1.
When the Boosters introduced the artificial turf idea last year,
there were immediate objections to a request for up to $300,000
in taxpayer funds from the Community Preservation Act to
augment about $700,000 in private donations. But
environmental questions soon arose.
After spirited debate, Town Meeting voted last November to allow
the use of CPA money. Because the football field is near
wetlands, the Conservation Commission had the responsibility
of deciding whether it would be permissible to replace grass
with 40,000 ground-up tires.
A ConCom member accused the Boosters' consultant, Gale
Associates, of sloppy work on environmental impacts. For
example, Gale was apparently unaware that the playing field
drains directly into the well field. The commission ultimately
issued conditional approval containing a number of stringent
Then 11 residents filed an appeal of the ConCom's action to
the DEP, saying they aimed to protect the town water supply, not
to stop the project. Project supporters promptly attacked the
residents, accusing them of bad motives, "absurdly
self-aggrandizing" behavior and obstructionism.
Wayland resident Harvey Wolkoff of Ropes & Gray, Boston's
largest law firm, volunteered to oppose the appeal pro bono. In
a letter to the DEP Wolkoff identified himself as the ConCom's
lawyer and erroneously called Gale the ConCom's consultant.
Evidently he neglected to consult the ConCom, which demanded
that the letter be withdrawn.
A new letter identifies him as the School Committee's lawyer and
corrects the consultant's status.
Though Wolkoff is working without fee, presumably the town has
paid for representation of town counsel Mark Lanza, who was
present at the DEP's site visit on Jan. 16.
The DEP's Feb. 5 letter notes that the two Happy Hollow wells
are approved for 1.411 million gallons per day (between a third
and half of Wayland's consumption) "and therefore the required
protective Zone I radius for each of the wells is 400 feet." Within
that radius are parts of athletic fields including tennis courts and
a lacrosse field and the site of "Homecoming bonfire and related
activities." More significantly, the DEP says prohibited activities
include drainage from the football field, maintenance and
overnight parking of school buses, and parking lot runoff.
The residents who filed the appeal noted that sodium level of
water from the wells is already above state limits. (It is mixed
with water from other wells, lowering the overall reading.)
In a Feb. 8 email to Town Administrator Fred Turkington, Water
Commission Chairman Joel Goodmonson said, "I realize there
may be significant costs associated (with) some of the changes
required by DEP. I want to assure you and (School
Superintendent ) Gary Burton that the Water Department intends
to cover these costs as much as possible. The issue I am most
concerned about is redirection of the drainage from the athletic
This raises questions.
Since the wells predate the high school, wouldn't the School
Committee be financially responsible for changing the drainage
and other mitigation ?
If the Water Department takes financial responsibility, would only
water users bear the burden (not an idle question to residents
not on the town system)?
If the state ultimately requires drainage changes as a condition
for installing artificial turf, will the total cost to taxpayers dwarf the
$300,000 already allocated from preservation funds? Or would
the Boosters raise additional private funds?
Where has the Water Commission been all this time?
Goodmonson spoke at Town Meeting and a ConCom hearing,
saying he believed the project should proceed as the Boosters
planned. At Town Meeting he gave the impression of speaking
for the entire commission, but another member rose to
Wayland's water superintendent resigned unexpectedly in
December 2004 and hasn't been replaced. The Water
Department foreman was named to fill the slot temporarily. In
November 2006 the small department's administrative assistant
resigned suddenly. The acting superintendent resigned on short
notice a few weeks later. Water commissioners have
acknowledged a significant number of inaccurate bills and bills
that were issued belatedly or not at all.
When the commissioners sought greater control over surplus
funds to ensure long-term management, the selectmen and the
Finance Committee opposed them, seeking water revenues for
other town uses.
For many years Wayland residents enjoyed low prices for water
that almost everybody agreed was excellent. The price is still
low, but there are increasing complaints about taste, color and
The residents' appeal was filed under the Wetlands Protection
Act. So far the state has acted only on drinking water standards.
-- Michael Short
Editor's Note: The signers of the appeal include Tom Sciacca,
who writes for WVN.
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Michael Short, Editor