Effingham—September 8, 2022—Effingham’s Select Board on Tuesday said it would not take action to require gas station developer Meena LLC to test near-by residential wells for contaminants that might have entered the groundwater when the company illegally installed Underground Gas Tanks (USTs) last year.
A group of nine Ossipee and Effingham property owners told the board in June they feared the UST installation could have dislodged potentially carcinogenic chemicals in the soil that DES documented when a previous gas station at the site was dismantled in 2015.
The board also declined to act on the petitioners’ request for information about what Meena did with the soil it dug up for the USTs, but agreed to the request that a list of all zoning violations on the property be made public.
“The Board is not going to discuss the Meena case or take any action until after the Planning Board has come to a decision,” said Town Administrator Audrey Fraizer after the meeting, referring to the Site Plan Application process, which is ongoing.
Meena abutter Bill Bartoswicz, an Ossipee resident who attended Tuesday’s meeting, said he was appealing to Effingham because Ossipee’s Select Board “is not concerned” that its citizens are being impacted by decisions being made in a neighboring town.
Bartoswicz said he bought his home with the understanding that it was in the Groundwater Protection District, and was shocked when Meena installed USTs about 100 yards from his well.
“I have a very compromised immune system and multiple health issues, and I moved up here for the quiet and to be away from pollution,” he told the Effingham Board.
“I’ve attended all the ZBA and Planning Board meetings, but no one seems to be listening to me,” he said, adding that he had to stand in the hallway at the last Planning Board hearing because the meeting room was full.
Ossipee resident Perry Fine, who lives near the Meena site, expressed his frustration with what he called a “circular discussion” about the well testing.
“I asked if it was feasible for the Select Board to fine Meena for its zoning violations and use the money to test the wells and create a baseline understanding of any contamination,” Fine said, “and the response was that there was no danger because there was no gas in the tanks.”
Fine said he asked if the Board would take the Meena issues up with Town Counsel and was told “our hands are tied by confidentiality.”
The ZBA granted Meena a variance for a gas station more than a year ago, but the Planning Board’s review of the Site Plan Application has repeatedly stalled.
After Planning Board Consultant North Point Engineering cited deficiencies in materials written by Meena agent Mark McConkey, Meena hired Horizons Engineering for a two-month rewrite that included replacing the Stormwater Management Plan.
North Point also found issues with the rewrite, and questioned whether the State had approved Meena’s proposal to place equipment on adjacent N.H. DOT property to process gas station runoff and flow it into wetlands.
Advised of the plan by conservation groups, DOT Commissioner Victoria Sheehan said her agency would not allow it, and Meena would have to “consider alternative means to meet their regulatory requirements.”
The next public hearing on the gas station application is scheduled for October 6.