Vassalboro Conservation Commission Minutes 11/9/2022 at the Town Office
Present: Steve Jones, David Jenney, Peggy Horner (on Zoom), and Holly Weidner (chair); Absent: Paul Mitnik
Guest: John Reuthe

Old Business

1) PFAS update: After consulting with Mary Sabins, Peggy emailed the DEP to inquire into progress with testing Vassalboro properties for possible PFAS contamination. On Nov 9th, Mary had a ½hour zoom meeting with Chris Bagley, an employee of Haley Ward who has been contracted by Maine DEP to perform water and soil testing for PFAS. Mary shared the following from this call:

“There are three parcels of land in town where the sludge was spread where Chris and his team are attempting to reach the current owners to perform soil testing.  Those three parcels are:  1. Land owned by the Vassalboro Sanitary District at the intersection of Taber Hill and Oak Grove.  Chris said the district is somewhat resistant to sampling so the land has not yet been sampled.  2.  Land at 123 Crowell Hill Road owned by Danielle Bachelder.  Chris has not been able to reach Danielle.  3.  Linda Suga’s land between Nelson Road and Main Street.  Linda has not responded to certified mail inquiries.”   Once soil samples are taken, it is sent to a lab in Massachusetts and takes 30-45 days for results.  There have been no soil samples taken in Vassalboro to date. There is a list of 19 properties where DEP would like Chris’ team to take water samples.  Certified letters were sent to all land owners at those locations.  Of those 19 properties, seven owners responded.  Four water samples have been taken, with more tests scheduled soon.  The twelve others on the list that have not responded could require personal contact (phone call or knock on the door).  I asked Chris to send me the list of those who need to be contacted in case members of the Conservation Commission would like to assist Haley Ward with outreach.  Those wells whose test results are found to be greater than a reading of 20 will be provided with bottled water until the state can provide and install a water filter system.  The filter system will not be a direct expense to the homeowner, but will come from the State fund that is set aside for PFAS work.  Regular testing of the filtered water will be on-going every so many days (30?) to determine the life span of the system filter, which as of now is undetermined.  Filters will be replaced by the state as needed.” [BOLD is added by VCC]

Action: VCC has already offered to help the Maine DEP in outreach as needed. VCC will await a reply from DEP with the list of owners to be contacted and then assist in outreach.

2) Trout Pond update: Holly received an email from a landowner who abuts to the culvert repair area. He had had trees and underbrush removed from his property in the process of the culvert upgrade. He also had a copy of a cost estimate for the re-vegetation and erosion control references that the VCC couldn’t find on the grant application. He writes that the

“…main objective was to provide shading and cover for the fish, as well as to guard against erosion.  Also plants and grasses help to stop road salts from contaminating the watershed.  Unfortunately the only material that was available for a cover material was a hard packing inorganic sand gravel that could barely support some sparse grass.  
I intend to make this right myself by having loam hauled in, and planting some shrubs and grasses as suggested by Stream Smarts. ….”

The VCC is in agreement with the need for re-vegetation to follow Stream Smart and Lake Smart guidelines for this stream that is in the Webber Pond watershed. But the town has said that the town has met the conditions of the DEP grant.

Action: The VCC can do nothing further, but Holly will send a reply to the landowner. His only recourse is to ask for the town Board of Appeal, to reconsider the case. 

3) Eagle Park update: There was an informal meeting with Gene Fields, Public works, twice to stake -out the potential boundaries of the parking lot which is about 40x50 ft. If the weather holds out, they may be able to start a preliminary work on the lot. Paul staked out where the Wetland buffer is (100 ft. from the border of Wetlands). KWD was contacted concerning the shut off valves to the water and the 2 water pipes sticking up in the middle of the property. They clarified that they aren’t the supplier of the water to the 2 lots. It is East Vassalboro Water District. This was confirmed with owner, Don Robbins. There is only one shut off valve which is at the phone pole between the 2 lots. The town could use the water from EVWD or the town can cut off the pipes that are above ground and cap them and bury them if they desire. The pipe runs from the shut off valve near the phone pole diagonally from the street to the water pipe. The property is within the shore land zoning (250ft) which may have some restrictions on the use of the septic. Also with the new septic line extending to East Vassalboro, it is unclear what options for having a septic are. One option mentioned was a precast septic tank instead of using the old septic tank as a pumping tank. Because the property is within the EVWD well head, there are certain restrictions and the EVWD would need to be notified of any use of sanitation facilities on the property.

New business:

1) Webber Pond report: John Reuthe updated the committee on the complex issues affecting water quality on Webber Pond and Three Mile Pond. The Webber Pond Association has been monitoring the deteriorating water quality weekly or more with Secchi Disk readings, phosphorus, oxygen and temperature readings. They noted a sharp increase in phosphorus in June and early algae bloom. DEP has been involved with the rise in cyanobacteria and toxic algae. The WPA owns the dam but it isn’t clear who owns the fish ladder. The water level is presently regulated by manually pulling out large boards that are physically taxing and dangerous. There has been vandalism this summer that could potentially effect the dam’s function and therefore the water quality, the fish passage and downstream land. The WPA plans to ask the town to help with getting equipment for monitoring the water quality, a place to store equipment to run the dam and security beyond the present lock.
There is also the question of who should notify the public of public health issues that arise from lake quality such as occurred this summer.
The WPA is asking the town to gather the stakeholders: the WPA, the town, the state to discuss possible solutions,

Action: VCC supports the recommendations from the WPA who will be presenting this to the Select Board tomorrow.  

2) Maine Association of Conservation Commissions: Action: the VCC will pay for annual membership. Holly will figure out if it should go to the 2022 or 2023 year depending on when the MACC membership year begins.

3) New members to VCC: John Reuthe is interested in becoming a member of the committee.

ACTION: the committee enthusiastically will recommend his nomination to the select board.

Our next VCC meeting will be December 13, Wednesday 6:30 pm at the town office
Respectfully submitted, Holly Weidner , chair.