EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 23, 2013

Site violations stretch back 20 years

By Douglas Moser

---- — METHUEN — The Old Ferry Road property that is the center of a decade-long legal action by the state attorney general has local violations going back more than 20 years, according to city conservation officials.

The property was in the news two weeks ago, when an Essex waste hauling company settled claims with the state that it illegally dumped construction materials on the site.

The property, at 51 Old Ferry Road, is owned by Thomas Battye and part of a pending action brought by the attorney general’s office in 2002 for wetlands and rare species protection law violations. Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office also is pursuing claims against other waste haulers and demolition contractors who dumped or contracted for solid waste disposal at Battye’s site, Coakley’s office said.

“We’ve had enforcement orders going back years,” said William Buckley, director of community development, whose department includes conservation inspectors.

Buckley said the area around Battye’s property is a sensitive wetland. Hawkes Brook and Bare Meadow Brook run beside the lot to the east.

Most of the local citations are violations of state and local wetlands protection laws, including:

September 1993, non-permitted activities within the 100-foot protected buffer zone of an intermittent stream or bordering vegetated wetlands

April 1996, materials stockpiled in the buffer zone created runoff that deposited silt and other materials in the brooks

October 1998, violation for altering border vegetated wetlands as a result of filling and grading

August 1999, another violation for altering border vegetated wetlands as a result of filling and grading

December 2001, violation for altering resource areas associated with Hawkes Brook as the result of clearing vegetation and filling

August 2002, inspector observed a large section of land had been cleared, and the resulting clearing, filling and regrading altered protected resource areas and buffer zones

October 2002, Conservation Commission issued a verbal cease and desist order for clearing activities around Hawkes Brook, and the inspector followed up with a site visit nearly a week later.

According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, a 100-foot buffer zone, particularly vegetated borders, are critically important to the composition of wetlands. State law and regulations restrict the alterations that can be done within that zone.

The issue at the center of the attorney general’s action is illegal dumping of construction materials that would disrupt or destroy a local habitat of the endangered wood turtle, and goes back to 2002.

The city turned over monitoring and enforcement of the site that year, according to Buckley and conservation inspector Joe Giarrusso.

The attorney general’s office filed suit in 2002 against Battye for disturbing the wood turtle habitat on his property, filling nearby wetlands with construction waste, operating and storing solid waste without a local or state permit and storing or disposing of hazardous waste oil.

According to the complaint, Battye, who operated a concrete recycling and loam production business on Old Ferry Road, never applied for or received an assignment to operate a solid waste facility from the Methuen Board of Health or a solid waste management facility permit from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

An Essex waste hauling firm, Dynamic Waste Systems, agreed earlier this month to pay about $93,000, of which $90,000 would be set aside to clean up the Old Ferry Road site, to settle a claim that it violated the state’s solid waste disposal laws by dumping more than 115 loads of construction and demolition waste, including concrete, brick and stone, at the site over a period of 70 days, according to Coakley’s office.

The attorney general has ongoing claims against other unnamed haulers for the dumping.

Neighbors complained in the 1980s about noise, lights and trucks going all night long.

Battye, 75, now lives in York, Maine, and could not be reached for comment.

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