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.
It is very apparent that the ZBA and Planning Boards are against protecting the water supplies of the affected communities. Their excuses for not accepting the sound scientific conclusions and rules are evident in their biased position. The “road blocks” they throw out to the public make no sense at all.
They are corrupted.
I read these articles with increasing dismay. We purchased our lake property on Cassie Cove near Broad Bay in 2003. We have kept ourselves informed about the “issues” surrounding the Boyle’s property ever since the gas tanks were originally removed and the subsequent closing of Boyle’s Convenience Store.
We are summer and fall residents here, spending the rest of the year in our native New Jersey. About 15 years ago, we had our EMPTY oil tank removed from our front yard in New Jersey. Our home was built in 1933 and had been converted to natural gas at some point before we purchased it in 1978.
The cost to us was immense and the contaminated soil filled THREE 30 yard dumpsters. The soil had to be taken to a special dump spot to be properly disposed of as it could not safely be used for any landfill. The EPA sent someone to our property to test the remaining soil before signing off on the project and allowing the gaping hole to be filled. And… even now, over 15 years later, we still have difficulty getting grass to grow over the spot where the tank was.
I continue to be disheartened over the handling of the issues surrounding the proposed gas station. It seems very strange that there seems to be no inclination for transparency concerning the possible soil/water contamination from the disturbance to the soil from the 2015 removal and the current Meena tank construction.
I took a solitary kayak out on Ossipee on Friday . . . . pure bliss! It makes me very sad to think what can happen to this beautiful lake and the surrounding properties if our soil and drinking water from the Aquifier are polluted due to this proposed gas station. This project cannot be allowed to continue.