Vassalboro Conservation Commission Minutes May 15, 2023 at the Town office

Present: Peter Soule, Steve Jones, Paul Mitnik, Peggy Horner, David Jenney, John Reuthe, Holly Weidner (chair)

  1. Eagle Park: Project Canopy grant.
    a. Steve reported that the town was awarded the grant May 9th. The plan is for eight maple trees to be planted this month on the Eagle Park roadside with ongoing maintenance donated by Fieldstone Gardens. Steve will be the lead on this project and coordinate with Public Works, Jobs for Maine Graduates and Youth Conservation Corp, YCC.
    b. Eugene Fields (Public Works) plans to put in a parking lot this summer for approximately 6 vehicles much like the one at the Town Forest off Bog Rd. He already has a Dig Safe permit. Steve and Aaron Miller (town manager) have met to discuss work for this summer. Soil will need to be graded for more level surface for walking and mowing. This would be done in house. Paul noted that the town will need a Permit by Rule to grade within 75 feet of the stream. This is approximately $300. Paul can help get this filled out.
    c. Action: Steve will be lead person on this project. He will continue to work with Aaron, Eugene and get the Permit by Rule.
  2. Town Communication:
    a. As mentioned in our last meeting, there were questions as to what plan the town has to communicate with affected citizens concerning health risks that appear such as the Toxic Algae Bloom on Webber Pond last year. Since then, the town now has a new avenue for alerting town people: a town Facebooks page. The town already can post announcements on the town webpage. Aaron was alerted to the concern of the town not being in the loop from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (ME DEP) or Department of Health and Human Services re: health concerns. Aaron plans to request that 911 agency provide a list of all property owners on Webber Pond with contact info so that flyers or email could be sent to them. He will also connect with our medical officer to see what plan might be in order. Aaron will get added to the list of contacts for the DEP.
    b. Action: John will have the Linda Bacon, ME DEP, list Aaron as a contact for the town if future issues arise.
  3. Webber and Three Mile Pond water quality/criminal and environmental concerns:
    a. The culvert on the outlet stream from Three Mile Pond is getting an overhaul paid for by Maine DEP. It is predicted that this will allow twice as many alewives to get up to Three Mile Pond. There is ongoing surveillance and repair of the Seaward Mills stream through the town grant to China Regional Lake Alliance, CRLA
    b. John met with Aaron, Nate Gray (ME Department of Marine Resources), Steve Cutchin (Game warden) and Mark Brown (town constable) to discuss problem of vandalism of dam and fishery equipment as well as trespassing on the Webber Pond dam.
    Action: All parties are working on obtaining surveillance cameras, building a shed to store movable equipment. Steve C. counselled to call him directly 800-452-4664 if any concerns and, if unreachable, to call Mark B. to advise offenders of the law and if found again, they would lose their fishing license.

    c. Webber Pond Association is working with Maine Rivers, Landis Hudson, to work on issues of water quality testing, alewife access with an upgrade to the fish ladder, upgrade to the dam water level mechanics and grants. WPA is also working with retired chemist, James Webb to develop better testing techniques for water quality. They hope to be able to pinpoint more accurately from where the phosphorous is coming. Concerns arose this spring with many camp roads washed out from storms and pond side properties being flooded up to lawns. We believe that these problems will increase the phosphorus load on the pond.

    Action: There is a warrant article for $5000 for helping pay for water quality testing equipment, signage, and surveillance.

    Action: There is a warrant article for $12,500 from CRLA programs to address camp roads and water front property pollution.
  4. Statler waste site:
    a. Peggy summarized the situation with the site: Susan Pomerleau (ME DEP), Barbie Redmond (select board) and Mary Sabins (then, town manager) went out May 18, 2022 to assess the site on Rte. 201.VCC was not present. No report came out of that visit; Susan no longer works for the ME DEP but did report that the site is a low priority site for the state.
    b. The Town Office has the 2003 report titled "Final Summary Report Remedial Investigation of the Former Statler Sludge Landfill in Vassalboro, Maine" prepared by a private company for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP). Peggy and Paul looked over the report and it appears that there was some leachate and groundwater contamination from the landfill, but apparently there was no evidence of contamination in nearby private drinking wells.  Metals, primarily arsenic, and organic wastes were the primary contaminants of concern. The report suggests potential remedial options and continued monitoring efforts, but to date, none have occurred due to the low priority of this site by MDEP and expense of remedial/monitoring testing.  
    c. The MEDEP staff now in charge of the Statler Tissue Project is Vera Maheu with the Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management. She was recently assigned this project and will review the folder and get back with Peggy on potential future recommendations by MDEP.

    Action: There was general agreement that the purpose of VCC continuing to look into the Statler site is: 1) to be sure that ME DEP surveillance is up to date 2) to ensure health and safety for the surrounding environment and home owners 3) to advise the town on what are risks and benefits to acquiring the property.

    Action: Peggy to continue to work with ME DEP either getting a copy of any report that may have been made in Spring 2022, or if none was made, to get the property reassessed to answer the following questions: “what risk is there to the dump site and the surrounding area? What uses could the 19 surrounding acres be used for? Paul, Peter, and Aaron will be included in the working group on this with Peggy as the lead for VCC.
  5. Looking ahead: At our June meeting, it would be helpful to ask ourselves some larger questions:

    The town has started talking (in different committees and at the select board level) about whether it is time to either update our town Strategic Plan of 2006 or should the town create a Comprehensive Plan: What parts of the Strategic Plan of 2006 haven’t been accomplished and are still relevant to be addressed by VCC and which parts are no longer relevant? How might a Comprehensive Plan better direct the town on ways to conserve natural resources?

    The VCC is also an advisory committee to the town. What conservation concerns does the group feel we should be looking at in 2023-24 and how do we advise when we are not professionals or experts in the field?

    How does the VCC get info out to the public? What info should we be sharing with public besides our minutes that are posted on the town website?

Next VCC meeting is Tuesday, June 13th 6:30 gather and 6:45 pm start business. Because it is Election Day, location TBA

Respectfully submitted, Holly Weidner, chair