Residents Do Not Dig Plan to Fill Pepperell Quarry
By Scott Shurtleff
PEPPERELL -- Residents do not dig the pile of dirt a developer wants to bring to town.
About 300 people showed up at a Monday night meeting at the senior center to weigh in on a proposal that Massachusetts Composting Group Inc. has filed with the town. And nearly everyone spoke negatively of the plan.
MCGI has asked the town for permission to backfill a 50-acre section of an abandoned quarry at 161 Nashua Road with discarded construction debris and local residents strongly oppose the plan.
MCGI wants to deposit 4 million cubic yards of debris from projects around New England into the site. The company presented details to the Select Board at the meeting, which was interrupted repeatedly by murmurs from the crowd.
Rallied by Pepperell Watchers Community Group, concerned residents from Pepperell and neighboring towns all wore red in solidarity against the plan, which calls for 50,000 truckloads of earthen material to be transferred to the site over a 7- to 9-year period. The room was packed to its capacity of 200 while another two dozen people watched on CCTV in another room and another 50 or so peered through open windows to listen.
“This is strictly an information session for both the board and the public. No action will be taken tonight,” said Selectman John Nutter as he opened the meeting. “All those opposed to the plan, please stand up.”
Nearly every person in the room stood, then applauded their unanimity.
“I’m here to find out what’s going on,” said resident David Querze before the meeting. “That many trucks coming through is not good for the infrastructure. As it stands now it (the gravel pit/quarry) is not a danger to anyone. I don’t see any up-side for the town but I will keep an open mind.”
The restless crowd sat quietly as Phil Peterson from Terra Environmental described the proposal in detail via powerpoint. It was after the explanation that things got contentious. Members of the Select Board opened the questioning, while Peterson and MCGI officials answered.
Board members asked which routes the trucks would take into the site. MCGI officials answered that two routes were under consideration, one through Nashua and Hollis, N.H., via Route 111 and another through Tyngsboro and Dunstable.
It was when MCGI was asked how many truckloads per day would traverse the routes that the loudest murmur was heard.
“Eight to ten trucks per hour,” the contractors answered.
Over the lingering chatter they added, “That is a similar schedule as when trucks were removing the gravel during its operation.”
“We have a brand new covered bridge that Pepperell owns. We’d like to keep it,” Selectman Lisa Ferlito said, drawing a muffled cheer from the crowd.
In response to questions about the local airport, MCGI officials said the Federal Aviation Administration will make sure there is no disruption to the airport.
MCGI first made the proposal to town officials in June in a detailed plan written by Terra Environmental, LLC, a Reading-based consulting firm. That proposal says that all materials delivered to the site will meet the standards established by the Department of Environmental Protection for purity and composition. Then in July, town officials introduced the plan to the public. Monday’s meeting, which had to be relocated to the senior center due to overwhelming crowd size, was the first complete reading of the plan and the public’s first opportunity to contest it.
Citing factors such as noise, safety and destruction of local roadways, residents could find no up-side to the project, which they say will also negatively impact home values. The property, which is owned by MCGI, is near the Nashua River estuary and watershed area where, opponents say, local ecosystems will suffer. MCGI officials assured residents that it would conduct semi-annual water tests to ensure groundwater remains unaffected.