October 22, 2018

WDC Engineers on the Anawan School Project not prepared for pushback from town citizens

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The latest hearing of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) on the Anawan School Project was held on December 21, 2017. While the developers brought in their heavy guns in terms of engineering talent, I’d say town community members, along with our town’s own engineers, put the talent from the Woman’s Development Corporation (WDC) to shame. While the WDC talent were first up at the meeting, to spin their yarn on the project, it soon was evident that they were tweaking the numbers beyond reasonable limits. Members of the town’s community quickly pinned down these obfuscations. Private citizens, as well as members of the Board of Health and the Water Commission posed questions or made comments that drilled to the heart of the issues. Unfortunately, the developers, rather than addressing them in substantive ways, tended to wave these concerns aside. But in my view, these questions from the public were right on the money, and, in my more than 30 years in the classroom and university research, I would have failed any freshman engineering student who answered a final exam question in the manner that the WDC engineers did.
The Town still has little information on how three fundamental water issues will be addressed: 1) Are sufficient quantities of groundwater from one or more wells available for the development without impacting neighboring abutters? 2) How is the septage from the development to be managed in relation to the septage from the Senior Center along with the septage remaining from the abandoned Anawan School itself? 3) How is stormwater runoff to be managed? While the latter is often dismissed as a “nuisance”, it is, in fact, a major player in this development. A daily storm of 1 inch on the five acre parcel for this project amounts to more than 135,000 gallons per day. The maximum storm of record in this area is 5 inches per day, which is close to 679,000 gallons per day over the five acre site. All this water will tend to run downhill, precisely to the point where the proposed new well is to be located. Might this not impact the water quality of the new well? Obviously these matters cannot be addressed until we know where the wells are to be located, as well as the septic system and the storm runoff drains. That’s Hydrology 101. As we left the meeting, however, the WDC was still in the design phase of the project. The original location proposed for the well needed to be changed, which in turn would cause relocation of the septic and stormwater systems. So I’d say, at the end of the evening, we were back at square one. And many of us went home scratching our heads, wondering what rabbits the WDC would next pull out of its hat.
Jack (John F.) Hermance
75 Ash Street, Rehoboth, MA 02769
e-mail: john_hermance@brown.edu

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