Effingham—November 28, 2023—One of the lingering questions surrounding the installation of underground gas tanks and equipment at the former Boyle’s Market property in Effingham two years ago is what happened to the soil that was removed from the property.
Now it is known that it went to Ossipee Lake Camping Area, although the amount and how it was used are in dispute, and the state says the transfer was likely permissible under current environmental regulations.
The soil transfer was first reported in a letter to the N.H. Department of Environmental Services from Effingham resident Martin Casey, who alleged that approximately 20 truckloads of fill from the former gas station site was spread on the campground’s beach and playground.
Casey, who lived and worked at the campground as a groundskeeper for six years, but moved out in October, said he became concerned about the fill after campers asked him about rashes they developed after coming in contact with it.
“I knew where the sand came from and the possibility of it being contaminated,” Casey wrote to state and local officials.
In a phone call with Ossipee Lake Alliance, Robert Klein, one of the campground’s owners, confirmed the business accepted fill from the gas station, but said that he and manager Mark Garland were assured that it was safe.
Klein said he has a state permit to replenish the campground’s beach sand, but most of the delivery, which he said was smaller than what Casey claimed, was used elsewhere on the property, not on the beach and playground. He described Casey as a disgruntled employee.
Ossipee Lake Camping Area, previously known as English’s Campground, is on Leavitt Bay, approximately a half mile from the site where Conway developer Meena LLC started building a gas station at the former Boyle’s Market in May 2021 without a permit or an approved site plan.
Boyle’s Market pumped gas for almost 20 years before it abandoned that part of the business in 2015. The state’s gas station closure report documented petroleum-related chemicals at the site that included Naphthalene in concentrations above the DES Soil Remediation Standard. The EPA classifies Naphthalene as a probable carcinogen.
Rumors that soil was removed from the Boyle’s site and deposited locally prompted near-by residents to petition Effingham’s Select Board to investigate last year. When the town declined to do so, DES stepped in. The agency said the owner confirmed in a phone call that soil had been removed, but not from where the contaminants were found.
An agency official this year said his recollection from the call is that the removed soil came from the excavation area for the new tanks and equipment.
The state closely regulates what can be done with contaminated soil, but it does not require testing or a minimum amount of separation between contaminated soil and presumably uncontaminated soil in order for material to be removed from a contaminated site and repurposed elsewhere.
DES told Ossipee Lake Alliance that since the property owner stated the fill did not come from where the contamination was found, there is “no indication that it was improperly managed.”
Zoning and Burning Allegations
Former campground employee Casey also alleged that the campground violated the zoning ordinance in regard to expanding the number of campsites, and was burning hazardous materials on the property, including on the lakeshore.
Effingham’s Zoning Officer, Rebecca Boyden, said the Planning Board approved an increase in the number of campsites in 2012, but the required “as built” design document cannot be found in town records.
The Planning Board approved a second expansion in 2019, but waived the town’s requirement that the plan show “all structures on and within 200 feet of the site” after the applicant said it would be a burden to do so.
Boyden said she met with the campground’s owners and recommend that they provide the Planning Board with an “as built” plan for entire property so the board can determine if there are any irregularities that need to be corrected.
Casey said he sent the town’s Fire Chief a video and pictures of alleged illegal burning at the campground, including a picture of a large pile of construction debris on the Leavitt Bay shoreline.
Effingham Fire Chief J.T. Harmon confirmed he conducted a site visit to the campground and documented his findings. He said the owners have been made aware of the state’s open burning laws, and have been “advised to cease burning illegal materials.”
Harmon said he could not comment further as the situation “is considered an ongoing law enforcement issue.”