2006-03-09 / Letters to the Editor

LETTERS

In the best interest of the community

In recent weeks, my wife and I, who live in East Passage Estates on the north end of the island, have become engaged in educating ourselves on an issue that if not decided properly has profound long-term negative implications on not only our personal health and economic welfare, but that of the entire community of Jamestown.

Specifically, I am referring to current design plans by the town, as part of a planned landfill remediation and closure process, to disturb, excavate and redistribute onsite the existing toxic landfill, located at the Jamestown transfer station in order to build a public works department highway barn.

In order to better understand and assess the technical aspects and merits of the issues, I have recently attended the following two key public meetings on the subject:

+ The Jamestown landfill 50-percent design review public workshop at the Jamestown library on Feb. 1. This workshop, which was hosted by the president of our Town Council, involved a presentation by representatives of GZA engineering, under contract to the town, on the status of their 50-percent design plan for the landfill remediation, followed by a Q/A session with the public.

+ The North End Concerned Citizens meeting at the Portuguese American Citizens' Club on March 5. This meeting, hosted by the NECC core members, involved a presentation by David Van Slyke, an environmental lawyer, and former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund Enforcement Group, and a technical representative of MACTEC Engineering, both of Portland, Maine, to provide an independent review and assessment of GZA's design plans. This review was also followed by a Q/A session with the public.

Both meetings were very enlightening. Without getting into the myriad facts, technical details and pros/cons associated with the issues, I have concluded that GZA's 50-percent design plan is highly deficient and not credible because it lacks objectivity and has some very serious technical design flaws, which if implemented, would risk very serious harm to the health and welfare of our entire community.

Specifically, its implementation would pose a still unknown but unacceptably grave risk of groundwater contamination of the underlying aquifer embedded in the highly fractured bedrock (known for pervasive lateral migration and spreading of the groundwater) that serves as the sole source of potable well water for the private and public wells serving the families of this island community.

Given the historically chronic water shortage problems in Jamestown, I believe it would be highly irresponsible for the town's administrators to undertake in behalf of all of its citizens an action which risks jeopardizing the island's sole-source aquifer, and thereby the public health and economic welfare of all its residents. Furthermore, the resultant cleanup and litigation costs from such a potential environmental disaster would be prohibitively costly and totally unaffordable to the town and residents of this community.

Accordingly, I highly recommend that the town immediately cease all plans to disturb, excavate and re-distribute onsite the existing toxic landfill for the purpose of building a DPW facility on top of this landfill. Instead, I recommend that the town proceeds with ongoing plans to properly cap off, secure and close down the toxic landfill in accordance with and full compliance with all current, applicable EPA and state DEM regulations, and that the town finds a suitable alternative site for the DPW facility rather than on top of a toxic landfill.

I believe that an objective cost analysis of the alternative courses of action would, unambiguously, indicate that my recommendation is clearly the most cost-effective action for the long run that the town could undertake in this matter.

At the end of the March 5 meeting, I had the opportunity to meet and speak to Barbara Szepatowski, one of the three Town Council members in attendance, as well as to Bruce Keiser, the new town administrator.

I was highly impressed that both of these individuals have extensive experience in landfill remedial and environmental cleanup issues. I am also heartened by the fact that both individuals showed a high degree of responsibility, objectivity, and enlightenment in such matters, and that they appear to have the best interests of our community at heart.

I hope and pray that they, along with the rest of the town's leadership, jointly make the right decision in this matter . . . a decision that's in the longterm best interest of this entire island community . . . which many of us call paradise!

John G. Shannon 49 Columbia Lane

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