Is town defying DES on Brox?
Activist files complaint citing permit violations
MILFORD – Environmental activist Suzanne Fournier filed a formal complaint with the state Department of Environmental Services on Monday regarding what she calls numerous violations of permit conditions as the town prepares to build sports fields on the Brox property.
DES engineer Gloria Andrews, however, says the town isn’t violating its permit.
Milford is building two athletic fields on town-owned land near the Heron Pond elementary school, a plan opposed by Fournier’s group, Brox Environmental Citizens.
Two endangered reptile species, the Blanding’s turtle and the Eastern hognosed snake, are said to be on or near the property, and Fournier says the town is putting them at risk. She alleges that removal of an earthen berm on the site last week violates an alteration-of-terrain permit obtained from the DES.
"Conditions provided by Fish and Game’s Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Program were included in the permit to minimize the potential adverse impacts to state or federally listed threatened or endangered species or their habitat," she wrote in an email.
Andrews said in an email to town officials that no violations were found. Recent work has been in the gravel pit area, she said and that doesn’t require a permit because it is a grandfathered pit – existing before 1981, when the rules were adopted.
Fournier also alleges other violations, including removal of soil before vegetation was removed. A biologist should have been on-site immediately prior to earth removal, she said, and there was no silt fence around the site, two state requirements.
Town Administrator Mark Bender said Monday the town is in close contact with the DES to make sure workers are fulfilling all state requirements.
"We are really trying to be extremely respectful" of the environment, he said, but there is a difference of opinion as to the sequence of operations.
Bender said that Rick Riendeau, Department of Public Works director, has been walking the site every day looking for threatened and endangered species.
"If we see a snake, we will assume it is a hognosed snake, he said. "We are taking an extremely conservative and cautious approach."
Andrews, who went to the site with town officials on Sept. 28 in response to the complaints, also said the town is putting up a silt fence around the site to prevent any endangered species from entering. Peter Spear, the wildlife biologist hired by the town, was on the site, as well, she said.
In a letter to the town’s consulting firm, Fieldstone Land Consultants, Spear said he spent most of a day there and "did not locate any unusual species or their sign.
"I looked under as many logs, telephone poles, rocks and discarded construction materials as I was able to lift. There were no snakes, toads, frogs, salamanders or turtles observed," except for one old turtle nest.
"The site is extraordinarily xeric (dry) and not particularly inviting to herptiles," he wrote.
Audrey Fraizer, chairwoman of the Milford Conservation Commission, was on the site last week, Andrews wrote, and had questioned whether employees had received training in the identification of endangered species potentially present on the site, which is one of the permit’s conditions.
Riendeau "told me that he had shown all the workers pictures of the endangered species," Andrews said. "He also had laminated pictures of them in his truck. The workers were told that they should stop work right away if they see any animals within the project area."
Fraizer also questioned the use of plastic welded construction fence located on the roadside of the project.
"The town has since secured the fence to keep it 4 to 6 inches off the ground," Andrews said.
Fournier, however, says no biologist was on the site when a vegetative berm was removed and during logging of the site.
A biologist is supposed to be there immediately prior to those activities to make sure any animals are removed from the area, she said.
Fournier said John Kanter, supervisor in the Nongame Program at Fish and Game, had instructed the town to stop installing a silt fence last week, but the DPW proceeded anyway.
Kanter also asked the town not to do any logging on Sept. 30 because no biologist was on-site, "but DPW logged all day Friday and then again Monday," Fournier said.
Kanter wasn’t available for comment at presstime.
Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.