EV hearing to resume May 5
By John Fitts
CANTON – In the latest installment of a Planning and Zoning Commission hearing, those proposing an EV showroom, fueling station and related development at 9-15 Albany Turnpike looked to refute assertions that the proposal poses an undue threat to natural resources.
The plan calls for a 23,500-square-foot EV showroom, a 20-pump fueling station and a convenience store and eateries with a drive-thru and seating areas. The proposal seeks a number of special permits under Canton’s business zone regulations. Developers have touted the plan as the “future of transportation” with a showroom, service center, charging stations, gas pumps designed to convert to EV chargers and several eateries in the convenience store that are a “higher level” than the typical gas station.
Opponents have raised several concerns with the project, including design, community character and blasting which, according to a December WSP report, would involve removing approximately 118,450 cubic yards of “bedrock” – or trap rock ridge – from roughly 3.4 acres on the approximate 26-acre site. While most of the land falls in Simsbury, the majority of this development would be in Canton.
The hearing first opened at the commission’s October meeting, but the previous two meetings prior to March 17 had focused on Canton Advocates for Responsible Expansion’s petition for intervention, which by state law allows an individual or organization party status if a proposal “involves conduct which has, or which is reasonably likely to have, the effect of unreasonably polluting, impairing or destroying the public trust in the air, water or other natural resources of the state.” The law also facilitates the potential prohibition of such activities if the commission feels that there is the likelihood of impairment and additionally feels there is a “feasible and prudent alternative consistent with the reasonable requirements of the public health, safety and welfare.”
At the March 17 commission meeting, experts for the developer sought to demonstrate to the commission that the proposal was responsible, minimized potential site disturbance and included numerous safeguards to protect natural resources.
The commission heard from Attorney David Markowitz of Hassett & George, Andrew Nagy of Southington-based Blastech, Kevin Solli of Solli Engineering in Monroe, Ken Taylor, supervising hydrologist from WSP, the firm hired to conduct a hydrogeology report on the site.
Michael Frisbie, the planned owner/operator was slated to speak but was unable to attend the meeting.
The Commission did also hear briefly from C.A.R.E. witness Steven D. Trinkaus, of Trinkaus Engineering and while it was his first meeting, the testimony was limited to new information only.
Responding to comments at previous meetings, speakers for the development team asserted that blasting was a safe practice and did not pose threats to area wells, watercourses or the contamination plume from the state superfund site at 51 Albany Turnpike.
They also spoke to numerous safeguards planned for the fueling station, said the stormwater management plan conformed to state and local standards, contended that the development was designed to minimize impact at the site and touted their proposal to provide a conservation easement for a portion of ridgeline in Canton.
Each speaker faced questions from commission members and the C.A.R.E team. Commission chairman Jonathan Thiesse interjected numerous times when he felt those experts were testifying, rather than simply asking questions. (He noted each side will have a chance to summarize their points at a later point in the hearing).
Markowitz also objected at a couple points and at least once during the evening, Michael Pendell of Motley Rice, LLC, on behalf of C.A.R.E., objected to the objections, stating the witnesses were working on framing questions. He also briefly raised other issues, including the organization’s request for recusal of two commissioners.
Taylor was the first development witness to speak and said the blasting plan included monitoring for Acid Rock Drainage, an issue that can result if certain types of rock with pyrite are found in the blasting areas. He also answered questions about wells, stating that the development team had agreed to monitor within a 2,500 foot radius, as requested by C.A.R.E. experts and others. He also said the question of a few wells and whether they are active would be answered as a monitoring plan is put into action.
‘That’s going to be done as part of the development of the monitoring plan and quite frankly, in my opinion, because all the wells are greater than 500 feet away from the blast area there wouldn’t be any impact to the wells themselves as a result of blasting,” he said, adding that done “if done correctly,” blasting affects no more a few feet down and 10 to 15 feet horizontally.
One of the major issues Taylor spoke to was the contaminate plum at the Swift site. At a previous meeting, Evan Glass of ALTA Environmental had spoken to a 1990s study of the plume at the contaminated site, at which J. Swift Chemical, operated from the 1950s early 1970s, and buried waste solvents on the site, according the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. A plume from the contamination has caused numerous issues.
Glass noted that the study found tetrachloroethylene in a well at the former La Trattoria restaurant, much closer to the proposed development site and said that posed a greater threat to mobilization of the plume than previously believed.
At the March 17 meeting, Taylor offered a different perspective, saying that the well is inactive. The contamination was some 460 feet deep, based on the report, and not necessarily caused by the Swift site plume, according to Taylor.
“The low concentrations observed in that well, in my opinion cannot be directly [correlated] to the Swift site and, more importantly, that well now is not active,” Taylor said.
“More importantly as you can see the plume’s moving to the southwest, which is an indication that the groundwater flow direction is to the southwest so the only way that you could get concentrations from the Swift site in the rock at that depth is if you had some sink, or pumping that would reverse the groundwater flow and cause the contamination to migrate in that direction,” he added. “As of now that is not the case, so based on that there is no hydraulic mechanism.. There is no pumping, which would draw contamination from the Swift site toward the blasting zone.”
C.A.R.E. experts asked several questions of Taylor, some of which centered on whether the development team planned to get additional information about the Swift site in the DEEP file room.
COVID-19 restrictions and a lack of confirmation for a previously available appointment have made those difficult to obtain, but Markowitz confirmed the team would be keeping its early April appointment to review those files.
Glass also focused on several question regarding other potential sources of pollution, the geology of the area and the nature of bedrock.
“Would you agree flow in bedrock aquifer is complicated,” Glass asked in relation to potential pollution sources.
“Yes, which is why I’m not saying 100 percent,” Taylor said.
Would you say it’s really important to have a robust monitoring plan?” Glass said.
“Yes” Taylor replied.
Glass also referenced the sub slab depressurization systems installed at some locations near the Swift site.
“Would it be important for developing the plan to take into consideration soil, gas migration,” he said.
Taylor responded, “Yes it would be but in my opinion, you’re not going to have soil gas in areas where there’s no plume. If there’s no plume and we’re not going to impact the groundwater flow based on blasting, I wouldn’t think that there would be a huge impact related to soil vapor.”
The two also agreed that post-blasting well monitoring should be done over time and not just once.
In his comments to the commission Nagy addressed blasting and noted his embarrassment at the news video played by C.A.R.E. of an incident where rock at a blasting site flew into a nearby roadway.
“I just want to let the commissions know that was a one time in 36-year incident,” he said. “That was 20 pounds of explosives that didn’t hurt anyone. My blaster wasn’t cited for anything. They did nothing wrong. It was just purely an accident and it was 20 pounds of sixty six million pounds of explosives my company has detonated in 36 years of business.”
He also said that blasting a very precise science.
“The calculation for rock fracture beyond the hole is 15 times the hole diameter so if we were to use 3 x 15 inches, [that] would be roughly four feet for fracturing beyond the blast hole,” Nagy said. “There are no incidents of opening up seams, opening up joints in the rock vertically, horizontally, transversally or in any direction, any greater than that. We certainly would not anticipate any vibration going down into the ground 400 feet deep that’s going to disturb the well that’s in question.”
“Vibration has to dissipate somewhere and it dissipates upward, vertically or horizontally, not downward,” he added.
Nagy also initially said the work from his company had not contaminated any wells, but during cross-examination said he misspoke and noted a situation in which a farm had buried animal carcasses, which caused some issues due to heavy rains that followed blasting.
Pendell asked about a Monroe resident Cynthia Ambrosey who alleged several problems from a blasting project, which took place approximately a mile from her house, including shale shards in her well, water issues and structural problems.
“I know the name very well. There was no well contamination there that I am aware of. There was never a claim,” said Nagy, noting it was a years-long quarry operation.
“We had building that were as close as 250 feet away from us that never even had once claim and we had this lady . …a mile away that felt we were disturbing that …. If a seismic instrument can’t pick up a blasting event then I don’t know how a human can.”
Glass asked Nagy numerous questions about existing fractures and the presence of two intersecting faults in the area.
“We are trying to get at information blasting that is being presented how far it’s predicted new fractures would be created. That is part of the story we’re concerned about. The other part we’re concerned about is that there are many, many existing fractures and I want to know what we know about how blasting affects existing fractures because we know the existing fractures have already conveyed the contamination. And if those existing fractures get changed by blasting then those contamination migrations can change,” said Glass, adding that the fracturing is interconnected between formations and among formations.
An objection from Markowitz and a reminder to stick to questions followed from Thiesse. Glass then asked, “What could Mr. Nagy definitively tell us how blasting can [affect] existing fractures?”
“It will not impact existing impact fractures beyond what I’ve described,” Nagy said.
“And what is that based on?” Glass asked.
“It's based on experience,” Nagy said. “I don’t know what else to base it on. If we’re causing fractures to open up 300 feet away from where blasting is taking place then there would be no blasting taking place in the state of Connecticut anywhere.”
Additionally, Glass and Bill Warzecha, retired DEEP geologist/hydrogeologist who spent 22 years as the supervising environmental analyst for the Remediation Division, pressed Nagy about well impact, such as changes in yield, in cases where monitoring isn’t done.
If there’s often no monitoring, how does one know if there were impacts? Warzecha asked.
“Generally, if there’s is any impact to the well it’s pretty noticeable. It’s very easily in the taste and the smell of the water,” Nagy responded.
“Always?” Warzecha said.
Nagy responded, “I can’t speak to that if it’s always but generally, yes. That’s what I’ve always known.”
Warzecha later took up the theme again.
“You said earlier that people could tell if their wells were impacted just by taste or smell. Do you think that’s the case with a volatile organize compound like the PCE that’s present in the LaTrattoria well?
Nagy responded, “I have no experience with that.” “You can’t see It or taste it,” Warzecha said, prompting another interjection from Thiesse, who said, “Ask questions please.”
Nagy faced several questions from the commission, including one about inconsistencies in rock formations.
Such voids are sometimes found and in those cases the hole is filled with crushed stone until it’s “competent,” Nagy said.
In his comments to the commission, Solli said the plan has evolved over time and has incorporated numerous suggestions from the community, commission and even some of the C.A.R.E. experts.
He also, however, asserted that some of the statements were unreasonable and that some of the testimony from the opposition was based on earlier renditions of the plan, not the latest information.
“We feel our application as currently before the commission address all those concerns and we find a lot of the statements unfounded because they don’t address the current [plan],” Solli said.
Solli, for example that the fueling stations concrete pad would now have a “positive limiting barrier” to prevent any small spills from spreading. He also said Noble gas pumps include spill kits and highly trained employees.
The development team said Noble also welds its gas tank pipes. In addition to alarms and other modern safety measures, impervious liners were added to the plan to protect the bedrock should any spills happen, Solli said.
“As part of our revised submission …. we’ve provided a number of things, which include liners beneath our proposed stormwater detention systems, both the underground system and the above-ground system,” Solli said. “So that’s actually designed to prevent any potential infiltration or exfiltration into the bedrock or any water above that to protect against any potential future spills, which we don’t believe would be the case but there’s an added level built into it.”
Stormwater management was another topic and Solli fought back on assertions that the plan fell short in that aspect.
“Our project does include stormwater quality improvements and stormwater quality treatment, which is in compliance with the 2004 water quality manual so we do believe that our project is in compliance with the regulations,” he said.
Solli also addressed the state water quality manual and the concept of low impact development.
“The number one fundamental concept is site disturbance,” he said. “Our project is on a 26-acre parcel and we are proposing to disturb the and half acres that’s 13 percent of the site,” he said.
“One of the things we’ve talked about throughout the duration of this public hearing is that things we’ve recommended and things we’ve designed and waivers requested in response to that exact goal. We’re trying to minimize our site disturbance,” he added.
Solli also address water flows and said the project would actually create a drainage system for DOT.
“This is a site where we’re trying to avoid infiltration due to response and concerns about potential environmental harm with providing infiltration,” he said. “If that’s the case we have to attenuate our flows but if there is a slight increase in volume that is not inconsistent with other operations and other sites that this commission has approved and have been approved throughout the state of Connecticut.”
He also said developers have been responsive and are willing to take additional safeguards when it comes to blasting, such as independent third-party seismic monitoring. (The commission does not regulate blasting but can place conditions on any approvals and does consider aspects such as environment and quality of life in special permits required for this project).
As he made those and other points, Solli said he does not believe the project would not be the environmental risk alleged in the intervener petition and by others.
“We don’t believe there is a reasonable likelihood that this will have an adverse impact or result in any unreasonable pollution to the environment and our plans document that, establish that. That has been echoed by the relevant agencies that have been requested by this commission to review this application and event he independent third parties like GZA (the consulting firm hired by the town to review the hydrogeology reports).
Like other speakers, Solli faced several questions from C.A.R.E.’s consultants, with a few tense moments as he and those asking questions clearing disagreed on several points.
Michael S. Jastremski, watershed conservation director for the Housatonic Valley Association, asked, “So just to clarify, you’re characterizing removing 120,000 cubic yards of hard rock as minimizing site disturbance?” Jastremski asked.
“We have a 26 acre parcel and we’re proposing to disturb 3 and a half acres. I’d say that’s minimizing site disturbance,” Solli responded.
Trinkaus also noted a different perspective on site disturbance as related to the Low Impact Development.
“The first tenant of LID is to work with the natural landform, not minimize disturbance so removal of 100,000 yards of rock, or dirt for that matter, how does that equate to minimizing site disturbance in your opinion?” Trinkaus asked.
“Because this property owner has the right to use his property in accordance with the zoning regulations established in the town of Canton and frankly not allowing him to use any of it is outside of what land use law provides,” Solli responded. “As designers, as you’re well aware, what we have to do is try and come up with an approach that allows for the property to be used commercially as is any landowner’s right, but to do it in a way that we can minimize potential impacts and minimize any potential I pacts to any off stream or potential neighbors.”
“As designers were certainly well within our right to come in and propose something far more intensive, that’s permitted under the regulations, that could require more disturbance that could require more earthwork, more export of materials,” Solli added. “We could propose to excavate the site further to bring the entire site to grade down to Route 44. That’s within our rights. We didn’t do that. We minimized the amount of earthwork by condensing it the best we could. We kept our site considerably higher than the roadway, and we designed a stormwater management plan that we believe is in compliance with the town of Canton and the quality manual provided by DEEP.”
Solli and Trinkaus sparred over stormwater management, with the latter asking several questions about the specific techniques and the research and testing behind them. At one point he asked, “where in the manual does it state that a bunch of secondary practices are equivalent to a primary water quality practice?”
Solli contended the plan used well accepted practices allowed by the state and the town and ones that are at the commission’s discretion.
“I am a testifying that our site has been designed in accordance with the requirements and will not have or create undue erosion or have other potential issues that will have impact on the downstream neighborhoods,” Solli said.
When it came to questions about potential releases of fuel or fuel-related accidents at the site, Solli said in addition to the modern technology and additional safeguards, an incident would be handled in accordance to state DEEP requirements, like other sites are.
“I can say it’s unlikely but you can’t protect against human error you can’t protect against things happening but I can say that what we’ve done is designed a plan that incorporates all the best management practices that can be incorporated on a piece of property and this is a use that’s permitted in the zone. It’s a use that’s permitted in the area,” he said.
Solli also contended opponents were talking in “what if” scenarios.
“Now there’s been a lot of claims and statement about what ifs what if this, what if that? Those are unfounded and there’s hasn’t been any evidence that I’ve seen that says this will impact the environment. It’s what if, what if? What if a fuel truck crashes down the road? Is that our fault? How do you design against that? How do you design a roadway system to protect against a fueling truck rolling over?. … The assertions that we’re supposed to be designing for some what if scenario are outside the grounds of reasonable and standard engineering methodologies.”
Solli also addressed the contaminate plume at the Swift site and Glass questioned him about the report that noted pollution in the La Trattoria well, which C.A.R.E. asserted put the pollution much closer to the site than previously disclosed.
When the subject of the well pollution was brought up by Glass at the previous hearing installment, Solli acknowledged the team had seen the report.
“When was it that you saw that report?” Pendell asked on March 17.
Solli said it he believed it was that same day or the day before.
“It was incorporated in our response… the existence of the report didn’t change our conclusion nor does it change it now,” Solli said. “We testified and made [abundantly] clear on the record that we don’t believe that our proposed activity will have any impact on the plume associated with the Swift site regardless of the existence of the report.”
Solli also said he doesn’t believe what was in the DEEP file room would change it either but told the commission that the team would be objective and acknowledged he perhaps should not have made the statement.
He also said the developer is looking to be integral part of the community and add value to it, stating, “This applicant has tried to do his best and put his best food forward to propose something that would be good for the community, not be an adversary.”
The commission continued the hearing to a special meeting at 7 p.m. May 5, a date picked to give WSP time to update its report based on what it potential finds in the DEEP files and to also allow C.A.R.E. and town consultants to review the provided information.
Those wishing to provide comments for the record can email them to NPade@TownofCantonCT.org. While there are no hard and fast requirements, due to the volume of feedback the proposal has generated and the need to prepare packets for each meeting, sending those comments as soon as possible is always helpful.
Those looking to find meeting agendas, packets and recordings can visit https://townofcantonct.org/agendas-minutes-meetings