Groundwater reclassification for five corners area


Courtesy of Penney Engineering, Inc.

Ralph Penney, president of Penney Engineering, sent a letter in April to Tisbury town officials and property owners around the Five Corners intersection in Vineyard Haven asking for their support for a change in the way the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) classifies the area's groundwater.

Mr. Penney plans to petition the DEP for a change in the area's designation from a 'potential drinking water source area' to a 'non-potential drinking water source area.' Under the current DEP designation, Mr. Penney's letter explained, any accidental spills of contaminants requires cleaning up groundwater to meet drinking water standards. However, the groundwater in the surrounding Five Corners area cannot readily be used for drinking water to begin with, as it is brackish and contaminated from past uses in the area.

Under the current DEP designation, if property owners do not achieve the drinking water clean-up standards they will be unable to sell or refinance their properties he said.

In 1995 Mass Highway encountered extensive petroleum contamination in the soil and groundwater along Beach Road and Water Street when installing storm drains. Only some of the sources could be identified, Mr. Penney said.

Mr. Penney said his company has been working with Eric Anderson on his properties at 8 Beach Road and 23 Beach Street extension since 2001, with no end in sight under the current groundwater designation. 'It would take millions of dollars to remove the historical buildings, dewater to lower the shallow groundwater table and remove huge amounts of contaminated soil,' Mr. Penney's letter said.

A change in the DEP's groundwater classification would make current and future site cleanups easier for Vineyard Haven property owners to achieve, Mr. Penney said. The newly designated area would include all the properties located in the waterfront/commercial and B-1 districts, as well as the densely populated portions of the R-10 district.

Properties in the Lagoon Pond District of Critical Planning Concern (DCPC) or the portion of the R-10 District also in the Groundwater Protection District would not be included.

The petition process involves meeting several requirements, such as submitting technical data about water resources and supply, an aquifer map, and documentation of comments received in a public comment period.

'I would estimate the petition costs will be, worst case scenario, about $20,000,' Mr. Penney said in a phone call this week. 'It makes so much sense, and it would benefit everybody.'

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