By Cara Hogan
PLAISTOW — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has decided exactly how contaminated soil will leave town, prioritizing protection of wetlands over traffic complaints from residents.
Town officials and some residents are unhappy with the EPA's route choice.
Cynthia Lewis, the site attorney for the EPA, said officials considered a lot of information before making the final decision on how to remove contaminated soil from the Beede Waste Oil Superfund site.
The 40-acre property was declared a Superfund site in 1996. Several oil-related operations were run at the site from the 1920s to 1994. When Beede Waste Oil, which was running the operation, went bankrupt, the company's clients became responsible for the contamination. ExxonMobil ranked as the biggest polluter, with the EPA claiming the oil giant dumped 1.7 million gallons of waste in the area.
Everyone agrees the contaminated soil needs to go, but the parties disagree over what route it should take out of town.
"We talked to a traffic consultant, town residents, the town manager and anyone who would be affected," Lewis said. "We determined what we thought was the best access route for the Superfund, which ends up being Route D."
To move the soil, 7,000 trips of 30-ton trucks will travel in and out of Plaistow over a period of nine to 18 months.
Route D was chosen out of six options. It would establish a temporary access road onto Main Street at the intersection with Danville Road, from which trucks would travel to Route 125.
"We're concerned and feel that access to Main Street is the wrong decision for the transportation of hazardous waste through the community," Town Manager Shawn Fitzgerald said. "We will be looking to meet with EPA administrators to appeal this decision in the next several days."
Selectman John Sherman said the town did a study, funded by the EPA, that showed Route B, which would involve building a bridge over Kelley Brook to Old County Road, would have the least impact on the town.
"Option B is the most direct route to remove that polluted material," Sherman said. "It goes by the fewest houses, goes by the fewest residents and is on town roads for the shortest distance. Our concern from day one has been the health and safety of our citizens."
Selectmen's Chairman Dan Poliquin said he thinks the EPA ignored the town's concerns.
"We've had numerous meetings with the EPA and I feel none of the agencies involved have looked after the best interests of the residents of Plaistow," Poliquin said. "They have given us a lot of lip service and that upsets me extremely. I think it's time that they took the town and residents a little more seriously."
Lewis said the EPA did not ignore the requests of residents and town officials, but had to follow EPA guidelines.
"We considered their input, but it didn't outweigh considerations that made us choose the access route," she said. "Legally, under our statute, we can't destroy wetlands and flood plains unless there is no other alternative to the site. There are two viable alternatives here, so we can't build a bridge on County Road and destroy wetlands."
Fitzgerald said the town believes the impact on the wetlands is minimal.
"The bridge would affect only a few hundred square feet of wetland," he said. "It's troubling they would look at the laws to preclude the use of the bridge at the expense of the residents in that town."
Sherman speculated that the bridge construction for Route B might cost more than Route D, but the town has no documentation of the projected cost of the various options.
The EPA also chose a backup route: Access Route A1. This route would have trucks turn left onto Kelley Road and then left again onto Main Street, before heading to Route 125.
Lewis said the backup route is there only if there are problems completing the preferred route.
"To implement Route D, we have to go through private property," Lewis said. "If they don't want to sell or lease it, we might not be able to do it."
Lewis said the federal agency is considering several houses and plots of land near the location for purchase, including a house directly opposite Danville Road.
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