Twenty-five years have passed since officials in Douglas gave a Site Assignment to Vincent Barletta for a regional landfill on the Webster town line.
by Christine Anderson
The project plans launched a successful fight to keep potential impacts from degrading surface recreational and groundwater resources—in essence, our way and our quality of life.
What did we learn? During the 12-year battle, hundreds of citizens worked to unite interests (sometimes) at odds, to seek help from state agencies and local, state and U.S. representation. The name of the group, Citizens for a Clean Environment (C-FACE), turned out to be a brilliant organizing strategy by Webster residents. In Douglas, citizens addressed the need to change town government by separating the powers once held by three people on our Board of Selectmen/Board of Health and increasing each board’s membership to five; additionally, they passed recall enabling legislation.
What has happened since the Massachusetts legislature took the landfill property by eminent domain to annex it to the Douglas State Forest? How do we think about water now?
With challenges to town budgets and our recent weather patterns, storm water management (runoff into town sewer plants and ecologically sensitive systems) has become a major issue. As budget cuts threaten commonplace services, towns need help from their residents—and from adjacent towns to meet the challenges. In the past 60 days, our area has experienced these extremes: near drought conditions and now a 5 to 7-inch surplus of rainfall. (Source: National Weather Service, Northeast River Forecast Center)
In Oxford, the water issue and remediating action was home grown. In response to so-called farming and subsequent devastating runoff into the French River, the town passed (with approval in 2005), legislation that would regulate the disturbance of land in excess of 10,000 sq. feet. Town Manager Joe Zeneski, who was Oxford’s town engineer at that time, says that the town addressed storm water problems this way, by requiring a permit from the Planning Board or the Conservation Commission.
Charlton had water woes, beginning with petroleum and gas releases into groundwater and subsequent building of sewer infrastructure along Route 20. They are now in a temporary agreement (toward a permanent one) with Southbridge to supply and operate water distribution to the affected area. When the Office of Dam Safety ordered the fixing or removal of the Prindle Lake Dam (privately owned, but located on the property of Nature’s Classroom), abutters to the property came to the town for help. According to Town Administrator Robin Craver, the result was to craft legislation now being considered a model for such instances: The town took ownership of the dam, and the repair cost (estimated at $600,000) will be shared by residents through assessing betterment.
In speaking with Ken Pizzetti at Webster’s Highway Department, he said “water means a lot to us….the EPA has a new plan and we’re on a schedule.” Dudley town officials were busy getting ready for their town meeting Monday night (a warrant article mentions rain barrels and composting bins—but that’s not anticipated. However, according to Town Clerk Ora Finn, the town has offered them to residents “for many years.”)
No doubt the 25th Anniversary of the Douglas Landfill Site Assignment will be celebrated. But whether or not you were directly involved then, enjoy Whitins Reservoir and Webster Lake now, or already practice good ecology in your yard and garden, your contribution is important. How might you commemorate all of these successful water preservation efforts—and everyone’s success?
Right as rainbarrels.
It’s not about the price we pay for water; rather, about its worth.
This year, consider the following:
Learn more about water and history: A good book is Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization by Steven Solomon.
Sponsor, through your club organization, rain barrel or composting bin sales and distribution. The primary cost for large containers is shipping or delivery, so find barrels that are recycled food containers, or tanks manufactured in New England (see photo and caption below). Get a friend with a big truck to go on a road trip to pick them up. Town officials say they do not anticipate offering these items for a while.
Begin with a barrel--or two.
Garden with captured rainwater from your roof and gutters. You can do it simply with a barrel like Grandma did (be sure to have a cover or screen on top) or make a system like the ones pictured below. The tall containers were manufactured in Australia. Though their manufacturer has opened a plant in Iowa, the shipping is still not cost-effective. A soaker hose makes watering easy and practical.
The rainwater collection system above captured 900 gallons from the roof
and gutters in the last big rainstorm.
Create a rain garden to harness your local runoff as a resource. It is estimated that summertime water needs represent 60% of our total annual use. If you pay for municipal water, you also pay a sewer fee based on that use. A well-written booklet title Rain Gardens in PDF form is available online from UCONN Cooperative Extension System.
Serve on a board or committee in your town. Be part of the conversation and the cooperation around these important water issues.
- Wednesday, 23 May 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Region