Effingham—July 26, 2022—The July 7 release of North Point Engineering’s evaluation of newly revised application materials for a gas station in Effingham’s Groundwater Protection District has brought visibility to an issue raised to the Planning Board in April but never publicly discussed.
The issue is the Public Water Supply well on the Meena LLC property, where the proposed gas station would operate if the “Development of Regional Impact” is approved by the town.
Item 9 in the four-page review states “We recommend that the plans include the location of the existing well on the property along with all required protective well radii, including those that may apply to fuel dispensing areas and underground storage tanks.”
The location of the well is significant because state regulation N.H. Env-Or 407.06 mandates that any new Underground Storage Tanks (USTs) for gasoline be located “at least 500 feet” from a Public Water Supply well.
The USTs at the Meena site, which the owner installed last year without required town approvals, are approximately 180-200 feet from a Public Water Supply well that serves the business and residential apartments on the property.
The property’s previous owner quit the gas station business in 2015 and used a DES grant to remove the USTs. With the tanks long gone, Effingham Town Counsel Matthew Serge last year issued a written opinion stating the closure met the legal definition of “abandonment” and there is no grandfathering.
In an April 7 letter to the Planning Board, Biron Bedard, the attorney representing residential homeowners who abut the Meena site, noted that the tanks were removed in October, 2015, and the well was registered as a Public Water Supply the next month.
“At no time in the past has the well operated as a Public Water Supply with USTs operating at the site,” he wrote. “The location of a new UST system within 180 feet of this well is simply not permitted,” he said.
The Planning Board has not responded to Bedard’s letter.
Geoscientist Dr. Robert Newton, who knows the Meena site from more than 50 years of studying the Ossipee Aquifer, said there is nowhere on the former gravel pit property where a well can be located that would be more than 500 feet away from the USTs.
Newton advised the Effingham Planning Board of his opinion in a March 27 letter, one of two letters (the other was in January) asking the board for time to speak in public session about why he believes the Meena site is a uniquely dangerous location for a gas station. Newton said he has not received a response to his requests.
North Point’s finding that the location of the well is missing from the new materials is notable because the well was shown in various versions of the Stormwater Management Plan that Meena agent Mark McConkey submitted to the Planning Board last year, although those documents did not state the well’s distance from the USTs. The recently revised Stormwater Management Plan, submitted to the town on June 30, was prepared by Horizons Engineering.
Newton said he was glad to see North Point flag the well issue. He said Meena’s materials should be revised to show the precise distance between the well and the gas station equipment so the Planning Board, the public and officials of neighboring communities can review the same set of materials in regard to compliance.
Newton said DES is aware of the well issue, but the agency believes it is ultimately a question for the Planning Board to decide.
The state agency granted Meena “conditional approval” of its construction plan for the UST system in February, 2021. The approval letter, which makes no reference to N.H. Env-Or 407.06, is addressed to Ramco LLC, which the UST construction plan identifies as the owner of the facility. The facility itself is identified as Aloha Effingham LLC.
State records show Pankaj “Prince” Garg is the principal of both LLCs as well as Meena LLC, the name used in the Site Plan Application to the Planning Board.
In an email exchange with Newton, Charlie Krautmann, Oil Compliance Section Supervisor of the Oil Remediation & Compliance Bureau of DES’ Waste Management Division, said the state was “not aware” of Effingham’s Groundwater Protection Ordinance when it reviewed the UST design for the site.
“I don’t disagree that this area is vulnerable to contamination given the hydrologic conditions, although that is why the Town created an ordinance to protect the aquifer,” Krautmann wrote, adding that the state lacks jurisdiction over local ordinances.
Pressed by Newton about the applicability of N.H. Env-Or 407.06 to Meena’s new USTs given Effingham Town Counsel’s written opinion that the removal of the old USTs in 2015 met the legal definition of “abandonment” and grandfathering status was lost, Krautmann deflected.
“Ultimately it’s up to the Town to determine the fate of this project,” he wrote.