Gazette editorial: “Protecting the environment”

The lead editorial in today’s Gazette calls for improvements in our system of environmental compliance:

“Protecting the environment”

…the state has abdicated its responsibility to developers, who are essentially allowed to monitor themselves by hiring their own environmental consultants. Meanwhile, local conservation commissions are finding there are limits to what they can do to ensure compliance with state environmental laws because of a lack of money and time.

The problems are exemplified by the case of the Red Brook Estates project… The project came under scrutiny following the discovery of severe stream bank erosion near the subdivision site…

At the least, the state needs guidelines to prohibit conflicts of interest and limit the involvement of environmental consultants in other financial aspects of a development project… it might, in fact, be time for the state to assume a greater responsibility.

See also:

Gazette: “Should developers police own projects?”
In five years on the Conservation Commission, Chairman Robert Floyd said he has never seen a developer’s compliance monitor admit to a violation in Southampton.

‘It’s amazing that everything runs so perfect,’ he said, with evident sarcasm.

Floyd and his panel are now engaged in a review of a severe stream bank erosion – and trying to determine whether a nearby housing subdivision by developer James Boyle is responsible…

Jane Winn, executive director for the Berkshire Environmental Action Team, a nonprofit advocacy group, said that in her experience, lackluster monitoring by developers is common…

Gazette: Erosion Near New Southampton Subdivision: Detention Basin Under Scrutiny
Floyd said a stormwater detention basin 300 feet from the top of the approximately 60-foot slope may be the cause of the blowout, which was reported by an abutter in May after heavy rainfall…

Alex Ghiselin, Letter to Gazette: “Don’t let development encroach on our wetlands”
The failure of the storm water system built as a part of the Northampton High School renovation six years ago illustrates why protecting wetlands is so important. Silt has filled the retention pond so there is no capacity to slow a storm surge which now flows unimpeded into the Mill River and contributes to flooding downstream. This accumulated silt also raised the water table and spills ground water into nearby basements…

Without maintenance, these [storm water mitigation] systems are part of the problem, not the solution…

Mike Kirby: Compensatory Wetland on Carlon Drive Not Working
Today if you stand by the pond and look down into it, you’ll see the check dam is now about two feet underwater. You can’t even see where they planted the marshgrass and flowers. The area is under water. Even in a fairly dry summer, the detention pond is only about a foot and a half from the top of the bank. There’s no storage to speak of, no discharge, no filtering. As it is constructed now, grey water from the parking lots and the access street goes directly into the swamp and the Connecticut River.

Photos Show: Man-Made Lakes and Stormwater Retention Systems Are No Substitute for Natural Wetlands