Town Says Go Pound Sand
FROM OUR PRINTED MARCH 1, 2023 BOSTON BROADSIDE
CARVER, MASS. SAND MINING OPERATION MAKES NEIGHBORHOOD ALMOST UNINHABITABLE
Pets, Humans, Struggle to Breathe
Town of Carver Leaves Neighbors in 12+ Year Sand Fog
by Lonnie Brennan
I drove two hours down to Carver, Mass. last month to put boots on the ground – talk with neighbors and walk the streets. It’s a beautiful area, but I could never live there.
What I thought might be haze from the sun or something was actually a fine fog of sand particles drifting through the tall pine trees. In less than an hour my parked truck shimmered from fine sand/silica particles – totally coating the paint.
For more than a decade, residents of this bucolic neighborhood have been subjected to a nearby commercial sand mining/excavation operation, permitted as an agricultural action.
That sand mining permit was issued by the Town of Carver’s Earth Removal Committee on March 1, 2011, 12 years ago. The permit granted Alex Johnson and Sons permission to remove and sell 545,000 cubic yards of sand. Bette J. Maki, the property owner, requested the permit via an “Earth Removal Application for Map 83, Lot 6 and Map 84, Lot 1” filing for the 66.85-acre property.
“I don’t need a suggestion from you,” committee Chair Robert J. Ieronimo snapped when an audience member at a recent public hearing to review the excavation activities suggested the committee should provide copies to the audience of paperwork/plans that were handed to committee members, or pause the meeting. Residents wanted to see the paperwork but were told, no, they could view it tomorrow in an office upstairs. Repeatedly throughout the long meeting, members referenced that they did not have certain facts/figures about the three-phase, permitted commercial dig. The numbers were “upstairs” the committee told the public hearing attendees.
Forget the Past, All Will Be Fine in 3-6 Months, or Perhaps Three Years? Depends on Sand Prices
Ieronimo said the initial permit allowed the mining/excavation of 545,763 [?] cubic yards of sand over a three-phase process. The issue before the committee was now just a time extension to allow 90,000 to 100,000 remaining cubic yards to be mined and sold-off. At mid-meeting, the committee members related that the work could be completed by mid-summer. Later in the meeting, the residents were told that it could be 2-3 years, depending on the “market.” The digger explained that the sale of the sand depends on construction needs and availability, and that if things changed, the sand would not be mined until prices were favorable. One resident asked if this were a reservoir building activity or a mining activity for profit? And, why does it take more than a decade for something if it were actually needed, pointing out that the bog apparently survived quite well for the decade and more without the reservoir.
Snap, Snap, Growl
As the meeting wore on, and the residents remained restless at not being given an end date to their decade-long exposure to the sand/silica haze, the mind-numbing 24/7 noise of diesel water pumps running, 25 or more large trucks each day clogging the roads, gravel and excavating equipment clatters, etc., Ieronimo again snapped at Margaret Sheehan who represents several neighbors under the Save the Pines Barrier Community Land and Water Coalition. The neighbors related how they just want the project to get done/finished – the trucks to leave, the loud diesel pumps running 24/7 to be silenced. But Ieronimo took umbrage with Sheehan’s tight criticism of the board’s transparency and actions, and her quoting of the town’s bylaws to them:
“Will you stop, like, trying to belittle everybody?” Ieronimo said, followed by, “Is that possible?” He added, “The way you talk to people is so … it’s disgusting. So could you please just have some respect for everyone in the room?” A resident spoke up and said: “I think she’s [Sheehan] reacting to the tone in the room,” referring to the tone set by Ieronimo. Sheehan replied to Ieronimo: “The way you have treated people and the way you treat the people in this town when they come here, for complaints, year after year – it’s a disgrace.”
3X the Size? If Needed?
At the heart of the neighbor’s complaint is: Why has this been going on for more than a decade? And why dig a hole for a reservoir of water that’s huge – 3 to 10 times the size needed?
Sheehan attempted to read into the record a letter she received from the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection: It was a reply letter dated July 20, 2022 from the DEP acknowledging that the proper size for a reservoir – if needed for the site – would be “72-acre feet.” The DEP noted “the proposed reservoir will be around 220 acre-feet. This size far exceeds the volume needed for agricultural purposes.” The letter was signed by Daniel F. Gilmore, Chief, Wetlands and Waterways Program, Bureau of Water resources. The DEP decline to be involved, explaining in part that it’s not a wetlands issue, and it’s not a pond: “It is an active sand and gravel pit and therefore can not be considered a pond.” And he detailed it is not covered under “Agriculture.”
Gilmore provided Nate Corcoran’s phone number: (508) 946-2723 and e-mail: Nate.Corcoran@mass.gov in the event anyone had questions as to why the DEP doesn’t get involved. Despite the letter having a cc (copy) to the Carver Conservation Commission and property owner Bette Maki, with Certified Mail # 7017 1450 0000 0281 4589, no one at the meeting other than the residents had apparently read it.
Maki’s Commercial Sand and Gravel Site – Drinking Water Threat?
In a five-page letter to Chairman Ieronimo, dated Aug. 29, 2022, Sheehan had detailed the neighbors concern with the effects on adjacent wells, water supplies, violation of permit conditions, and how the entire project is a “scam,” noting the “false pretense” for obtaining an earth removal permit under the guise of “agricultural excavation.” She noted how the board members “were complicit in this false pretense by allowing this to continue,” and detailed the law’s requirements.
Loss of Tax Revenue to the Town?
Property taxes are high in Carver, Mass., but under what was repeatedly termed the “guise” of cranberry growing, residents noted that property owner Maki and other landowners avoid commercial tax rates by doing their mining work adjacent to a bog and claiming that it is bog related work. “The bog? Just show. Just a tax dodge. Have a bog, make money off sand mining,” one neighbor commented subsequent to the meeting.
Tax bills are due quarterly. Maki’s current quarterly tax bill for the 27-acre excavation/mining site is $89.61. Her bill for the larger 39-acre site with the working cranberry bog and a barn/shed and improvements: $304.40. Both bills include small interest fees for being late.
The board voted to continue the hearing to a future date, to be announced. The neighbors don’t know when that will be.
No dates for future meetings for 2023 were posted on the town’s website at press time.
A review of the town’s website shows the committee met seven times in 2022: Jan. 26, April 27, July 27, Sept. 7, Oct. 5, Nov. 9, and Dec. 7. Seven neighbors were asked about the timing of meetings and each replied similarly: They never know unless someone says something, because notice is not given, meetings pop-up somehow, and often they are cancelled. The online calendar noted six meetings “cancelled” on the 2022 calendar. ♦
One Reply to “Town Says Go Pound Sand – Carver, Mass. Sand Mining Operation Makes Neighborhood Almost Uninhabitable”
I like Plymouth County. It is very historic and has scenic areas. However, some of the town governments in Plymouth County are arrogant and uncaring beyond belief. Even the suburbs in northern Plymouth County have some town governments with a very bad attitudes towards citizens. Every part of the state has arrogant and uncaring politicians. From my experience, I have to say that Plymouth County has some extremely uncaring and self serving town governments far worse than state average.. High taxes, poor services and substandard drinking water are problems also. This Carver story is sad, but not surprising.