Williamsburg Gravel Pit Owner Penalized $24,000 for Wetlands Violations, Required to Restore Damaged Riverfront Area
BOSTON - The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) penalized Hull Forestlands, LP $24,000 and required wetland restoration to resolve violations of the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act (WPA) related to the expansion of a gravel pit into a riverfront area in Williamsburg.
Through an ongoing review of MassGIS aerial photographs, MassDEP staff determined that the gravel pit located off Old Goshen Road had been expanded, without permits, into the riverfront area of the Mill River and Rogers Brook, both cold water fisheries that flow along the west side of the gravel pit.
In July 2013, MassDEP conducted an on-site inspection and observed that violations included clearing of vegetation and excavation of soil of approximately one acre in the riverfront area. Riverfront areas are protected under the WPA and associated regulations. Riverfront areas protect fisheries and maintain the ecological health of these waterway areas.
Although Hull had previously delineated the boundary of this riverfront area as shown on site plans, it appears that the boundary was not clearly identified in the field prior to providing contractors access to the area to cut and clear vegetation and excavate gravel. Upon learning of the violation, Hull developed a detailed restoration plan and worked with MassDEP to reach a resolution that provides for the full restoration of the impacted riverfront area. Hull must also pay $13,800of the penalty, and MassDEP has agreed to suspend the remaining $10,200 contingent upon Hull's compliance with the requirements of the agreement.
"Had the owner clearly identified the boundaries of the riverfront area in the field prior to allowing contractors access, this violation could have been avoided," said Michael Gorski, director of MassDEP's Western Regional Office in Springfield. "Property owners must ensure that site contractors are aware of the presence of protected areas prior to beginning work and that those areas are not altered, except in accordance with permits issued allowing work in those areas."
MassDEP is responsible for ensuring clean air and water, safe management and recycling of solid and hazardous wastes, timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources.