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WVN #310: Potential peril for Sudbury River

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  • waylandvoters1
    Dear Wayland Voter, Many officials and environmental groups in Wayland and elsewhere are opposing a Framingham project they say could irreparably harm the
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 28 9:53 AM
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      Dear Wayland Voter,

      Many officials and environmental groups in Wayland and elsewhere are opposing a Framingham project they say could irreparably harm the Sudbury River and affect the shore of Lake Cochituate.

      "The impacts to the Sudbury River from this project are potentially catastrophic," the Sudbury River Watershed Organization says.

      Framingham wanted to fast-track a plan to replace three inactive wells with four new ones plus a new water treatment plant, hoping for federal stimulus help of up to $5 million if the $40 million project receives environmental approval quickly.

      The town aims to save more than $1 million a year by lessening its reliance on water from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority system, which filed a report opposing the proposal. The town's biggest customer, a Nestle water bottling plant, draws heavily on the system.

      Though the vast majority of voluminous comments submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection cite significant environmental problems, the project has the backing of U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, whose district includes Framingham and Precinct 2 in Wayland.

      After receiving comments from 23 individuals, groups and government agencies, the state's secretary of energy and environmental affairs, Ian Bowles, denied Framingham's request to let its Draft Environmental Impact Report stand. He ordered Framingham to produce a Final Environmental Impact Report and told state officials to cooperate and move expeditiously.


      RIVER IN POTENTIAL JEOPARDY

      A few years ago Tom Sciacca, Wayland's representative to the Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord Wild and Scenic River Stewardship Council, commented to Town Meeting that the first requirement for a Wild and Scenic river is to have water in it.

      The line got a big laugh. But if the Town of Framingham has its way, it may not be so funny.

      Imagine the Sudbury River dry from Saxonville to Heard Farm, and downstream from there a long, stagnant pond. That's the scenario some experts foresee in dry years if the plan is carried out.

      Framingham is proposing to reactivate its Birch Road wells, near the Framingham/Wayland border off Old Connecticut Path (Route 126). The town wants to withdraw 4.3 million gallons per day (MGD), even more than the 3.17 MGD maximum the wells pumped when they last operated decades ago.

      Wayland, Sudbury, Lincoln, and Concord combined withdraw less than 4.3 MGD from the aquifers feeding the river. At times the total flow in the river is less than 4.3 MGD. What's more, that water would be withdrawn from the ground, used by Framingham residents, and then discharged to the sewer system and ultimately pumped miles into Massachusetts Bay, entirely removed from the local water ecology.

      As a result, it is highly likely that at times the Wild and Scenic River could have no water in it. Even if that happens only once every few years, it will kill the fish and other wildlife living in the river and destroy much of its recreational value. Even more frequently the water will become stagnant, leading to dying and rotting fish and vegetation.

      The dry Ipswich River was the impetus for new regulations limiting water usage. Wayland depends solely on its wells for drinking water.

      The Framingham Draft Environmental Impact Report claimed that the withdrawals would have minimal impact on all environmental resources. The DEIR states: "But as discussed in detail in this document, the minor environmental impacts at issue -- the impact to Lake Cochituate and the Sudbury River on a small number of days in the summer months -- is precisely the sort of impact that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is best suited to address in the Water Management Act permitting process."

      In requiring a Final Environmental Impact Report, Secretary Bowles noted simulations indicate the maximum short-term drop in the Lake Cochituate level would be 3.33 inches, which would shrink the shoreline by several feet.

      Framingham in 1979 designated these wells for emergency use and turned to MWRA water (in other words, Quabbin Reservoir water) when the iron and manganese from the Birch Road wells rose to unacceptable levels. Now, however, it believes a treatment plant will make the water clean enough and cheaper than MWRA rates.

      Framingham also cited increased demand for water as a reason for reactivating the wells. Nestle bottles municipal water for private enterprise, according to a recent MetroWest Daily News article:

      http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/homepage/x947780042/Nestle-bottles-sells-filtered-Framingham-tap-water

      "The Framingham plant consumes about 31 million gallons of water annually, according to a January 2008 report," apparently the town's largest customer, the newspaper reported.

      Framingham produced a Draft Environmental Impact Report as part of the MEPA (Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act) process to evaluate environmental impact, requesting that it be accepted as the Final Report and it be allowed to start construction immediately.

      Critical reports came from, among others, the MWRA, Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, Charles River Watershed Association, Massachusetts Water Resources Commission, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Friends of Cochituate State Park, Wild and Scenic Rivers Stewardship Council, and the Organization for the Assabet River.

      The MWRA argued that if Framingham significantly cuts its payments for water, other MWRA users will have to make up the difference.

      Wayland's Department of Public Works /Water Division expressed concerns about potential impacts to Happy Hollow and Baldwin well fields in dry years. The Wellhead Protection Committee questioned the premise of a hydrological barrier and made suggestions for implementing protections requested by the Department of Environmental Protection. The Conservation Commission said, "There is scant evidence that the Town of Framingham has considered the impact of the re-use of the wells in the conservation area..."

      Two Wayland residents, Tom Sciacca and Kurt Tramposch, filed separate detailed reports.

      Wayland's wells are all located adjacent to the river and draw water from the aquifers that feed the river.

      "In the rush to expend stimulus money, the state has forgotten to look at whether this project is even necessary, let alone environmentally wise," the deputy director of the Charles River Water Association, Margaret Van Deusen, told the Boston Globe.

      "The driving force for this project is to save money," the Sudbury Watershed Organization said, "but the economic analysis has not adequately proved that can be saved, or if the project is economically feasible if mitigation measures are required. And what is the cost of destroying an environmental resource?"

      Framingham officials say the project would improve the environment.

      The Department of Conservation and Recreation, which runs Cochituate State Park, is concerned that the reactivated wells would not just dry up the river. but draw down the lake as well. That would affect shoreline residents, boat users of the ramps and tunnels between the three ponds, and users of the Wayland, Framingham, and state park beaches.


      The Massachusetts River Alliance noted that "The DEIR underestimates the impact of the proposed 4.3 MGD withdrawal on flows in the Sudbury River, Cochituate Brook, and water levels in Lake Cochituate, and adjacent wetlands because it does not evaluate the withdrawal under low flow conditions." Nor does it "take into account existing registered and water withdrawals in the Sudbury watershed that already affect river and stream flows."


      -- WVN Staff
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      To be sure you continue to receive WVN newsletters optimally and in your inbox (instead of bulk or junk folders) it may help to add to your address book or safe sender list:
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      waylandvoters1@....
      ==================================================
      Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. Please forward it to your friends and neighbors in Wayland. If they want to receive their own copy, they can send an email to
      waylandvoters@....
      and they will be signed up for the listserv. Or, they can sign themselves up by sending a blank email to:
      waylandvotersnetwork-subscribe@yahoogroups.com
      Click reply and send after receiving an e-mail confirming the subscription.

      Wayland Voters Network
      Michael Short, Editor
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