By Jo-Anne MacKenzie
---- — KINGSTON — A gravel and concrete company has been slapped with a $700,000 civil penalty for filling more than 12 acres of wetlands and diverting more than a mile of streams at its plant in Kingston.
The settlement, announced yesterday with the state Department of Environmental Services, has been several years in the making.
In a separate action, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it, too, had an agreement with Torromeo Industries Inc. of Methuen for problems at the site.
It all started with an inspection of the property at 18 Dorre Road in 2009 by DES and the EPA.
The agencies found Torromeo had illegally filled 12 1/2 acres of wetland and diverted more than a mile of streams at its gravel pit and ready-mix concrete plant in Kingston.
It’s believed to be the largest illegal wetlands fill in New Hampshire, according to a release from Attorney General Michael Delaney and DES Commissioner Thomas Burack.
It’s been a drawn-out and expensive process for company president Henry Torromeo.
Under the agreement with DES, $225,000 of the $700,000 civil penalty will be suspended if Torromeo completes the wetlands restoration. For the remaining $475,000 of the penalty, the state accepted 8,333 tons of stone and $175,000 in cash, according to the agreement.
While both parties have agreed to the deal, it must be approved by a Rockingham County Superior Court judge.
“It’s been a tough fight,” Torromeo said yesterday. “It’s been hard.”
His argument against the penalty was partially based on the fact much of the damage had been done before he took over the site in 1963, he said. But proving that turned out to be a very costly process, he said.
“We’ve been in operation over 50 years up there and never had a problem,” he said. “After three years, I got tired of talking about it. It’s over and done with now.”
The settlement also protects 69 acres of wetlands Torromeo owns on Bayberry Pond.
He acknowledged moving a stream “about 10 feet,” saying they did so because the road was flooded thanks to beaver dams, and they couldn’t get into and out of the site.
“Most of this is caused by beavers,” Torromeo said. “We’re infested.”
He said the wetlands restoration is “99 percent” complete and the stream will be moved back.
While there’s some discrepancy in the number of acres of wetlands that have been restored, Burack applauded Torromeo for his cooperation.
“Restoration is an important component of resolving all violations. We cannot allow a penalty for a violation to simply be a cost of doing business,” Burack said. “I am pleased that Torromeo has cooperated with the state and has already restored almost 3 acres of wetlands.”
Under the EPA decision, Torromeo will pay a $135,000 civil penalty, implement a $500,000 Supplemental Environmental Project, and implement a compliance program to resolve “numerous violations of the Clean Water Act.”
One body that hasn’t filed any complaints against Torromeo is the town of Kingston.
“I haven’t had one complaint from the town,” he said yesterday.
In 2011, when the EPA filed its complaint against the company, then Selectman Charles Hart said the company had been a good neighbor for decades.
“They have been there a long time, paid their taxes and helped the town with a lot of things,” Hart said at the time. “There have been no issues or complaints.”
The Kingston facility includes gravel extraction, a crusher, a wash plant and a ready-mix plant.