, Newburyport, MA

Local News

June 17, 2014

Seabrook seeks groundwater reclassification

Move will protect the aquifer, restrict new businesses, town officials say

SEABROOK — Selectmen plan to apply to state environmental authorities for an increase in the groundwater classification level for land west of Interstate 95. This move will bring restrictions to the type of materials businesses may use in the regions, as well as greater scrutiny and monitoring of those located there.

Selectmen voted yesterday to enter into the groundwater reclassification process and make an application to the state Department of Environmental Services, at the urging of Planning Board chairman Donald Hawkins.

Hawkins said he believes upgrading the groundwater classification of land along Route 107 will help protect the aquifer, as most of the town’s wells are located in that region. Hawkins said once the aquifer is contaminated, the town won’t be able to do anything about it, so it makes sense to take actions that can prevent contamination in the first place.

He believes land along Route 107, currently zoned Industrial, is ripe for development. Depending on the degree of classification requested, this new action can give the Planning Board the ability to reject certain companies that use certain possible contaminants or require special techniques to safeguard against pollution.

Hawkins said this move will also give the Planning Board the authority to require developers and businesses to build their sites in a manner that ensures that well water levels are protected by preserving the land’s ability to let rain and snow permeate the soil and filter down to the aquifer.

This can be possible by requiring new parking lots be built of porous matter that allows rain water to perculate through it, or install methodology that collects all stormwater, then cleans it and releases it into the aquifer recharge area.

There are four levels of groundwater classification town officials can seek, according to Julie LaBranche, of the Rockingham Planning Commission, who is working with the Planning Board on this issue. The most stringent would be the GAA level, or delineated wellhead protection area, which prohibits six high-risk land uses completely, namely: hazardous waste disposal facilities, solid waste landfills, outdoor bulk storage of road salt, junkyards, snow dumps and wastewater or septage lagoons.

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