Abutter claims Garrison Place blasting affected water quality

by Karina Coombs

At its August 8 meeting, the Board of Health (BOH) discussed an ongoing issue with a resident’s well that has left the homeowner without potable water since July 17. Joan Parker of 77 Russell Street reported water quality issues with her well, which she attributed to the blasting at the Garrison Place development at 81 Russell Street of which she is an abutter. Parker submitted pre-blast and post-blast samples, the latter two showing elevated levels of iron and manganese.

Parker and her late husband Alex had appealed the 16-unit senior housing project, which was granted a Special Permit under the Senior Residential Open Space Community bylaw on November 28, 2016. (See “Garrison Place clears hurdle, but public trail access restricted,” December 7, 2016.) 

The issue was discussed by the BOH in July, after which Health Agent Linda Fantasia sent a letter to the developer, Brendon Giblin of Brendon Properties, requesting that he hire an engineer to look into Parker’s claim. Fantasia also 

noted that the Special Permit states that the applicant shall correct damage to abutting structures within 250 feet. 

Sampling methods questioned 

A written response from Donald Provencher, P.E. of Provencher Engineering, LLC, challenged the water sampling methods, noting that Parker collected them herself instead of a licensed and independent professional and that samples were taken from different taps. A letter from John P. Burke of Burke & Burke, legal representation for Brendon Properties, also questioned the integrity of the samples. 

On July 31, Skillings & Sons, Inc. inspected the well at the request of Parker and found it sealed, but with a fracture below ground surface and estimated repair costs of nearly $2,000 dollars. Fantasia shared this report with BOH Chair Todd Thorsen and Board of Selectmen Chair Luke Ascolillo who had been discussing the issue together. According to Fantasia, Building Commissioner Jon Metivier and Fire Department Chief David Flannery were also involved with the well issue and Flannery had requested that blasting discontinue at the site. Fantasia also noted that she had sent Brendon Properties, as requested, a water quality test conducted by Skillings in 1990 when the well was first installed, which also showed elevated levels of iron and manganese, requiring the water filtration system currently in use. 

Town representatives involved

In his email response to Fantasia on August 7, Ascolillo cautioned the board in “automatically accusing the developer,” given the well’s history. Ascolillo noted that he had spoken to Parker, encouraging her to explore a new treatment system for her well as well as a new service provider for her system. “This shouldn’t have dragged out this long and the town shouldn’t be nearly as involved as it is,” he wrote. “I’m getting calls from WBZ news because Mrs. Parker is calling them telling them she is a victim and nobody is helping her. This should not be happening.” 

In an August 7 email Chief Flannery noted that he had received blasting logs from the project and had met with the State Fire Marshal’s Code Compliance official and no violations were found. With the permit current until August 12, Chief Flannery added that blasting may continue. 

Access to property requested 

Burke stated that Brendon Properties, at the request of the BOH, would have an engineer and system technician sample the well and its systems to determine the cause of Parker’s water quality issues, provided they have access to the property. Fantasia was tasked with reaching out to the homeowner.

Water quality and blasting regulations discussed

The board also discussed the development of water quality regulations as they pertain to blasting, with Fantasia explaining that she had started to look at what other towns have done. Currently, the Carlisle Fire Department is the only town agency with blasting regulations, but they pertain to safety and not groundwater health. Fantasia mentioned that she had spoken with Planning Administrator George Mansfield about the two boards working together, along with the Fire Department, to draft something that would involve water measurements for pre- and post-blasting. The BOH will invite the Planning Board to attend an upcoming meeting to further discuss the issue. ∆