ARMY TO BEGIN SOIL REMOVAL TO DE-CONTAMINATE PLOW SHOP POND

By M.E. Jones

Correspondent

DEVENS -- The Devens Restoration Advisory Board met Thursday night to discuss two projects in the pipeline: sediment remediation at Plow Shop Pond, identified in the overall cleanup plan as Area of Concern No. 72; and site remediation at the Shepley's Hill Landfill, a former Army dumping ground in Fort Devens days that was also used by the Town of Ayer and which has been closed for many years.

Shepley's Hill was identified some time ago as the source of higher-than-normal arsenic levels in nearby Plow Shop Pond and an "arsenic plume" in groundwater that runs away from the site and below the lower half of Ayer's Main Street.

Since then, a moratorium has been instituted on any new well-digging in that area, which is served by town water, and residents were notified some time ago that they can't use existing wells, since the water could be unsafe to drink.

Ongoing remediation includes an operating facility at the site that the Army has said it wants to close, but which PACE, an Ayer environmental watchdog group, has lobbied to keep in operation longer.

The latest iteration of the cleanup plan, with questions answered by the Army, has been sent to all interested parties, with a July 8 deadline for added commentary.

But that was mostly the only mention of Shepley's Hill. Most of the discussion centered on the Plow Shop Pond sediment-remediation project, set to start in July.

Rachel Leary, of Sovereign Consulting, Inc., the firm the Army retained to plan and execute the project, updated the board on the process, with revisions since the last RAB meeting.

Besides Leary, the group included representatives of state agencies such as Fish & Wildlife and MassDevelopment; the EPA and DEP; members of PACE, and its consultant and Robert Simeone, the board's facilitator, representing the Army, Base Realignment and Closure Division. Simeone is a BRAC environmental coordinator.

A Rhode Island contractor experienced in environmental cleanup of wetlands areas has been hired to do the work, which will consist of lowering the water level of the pond by four feet and removing contaminated sediment from the bottom.

Leary explained the project and itemized the work, step by step, from measures to ensure that invasive plant species don't spread while areas of the 30-acre pond are exposed, to sample analyses of contaminates during the process, to public-safety measures such as fencing, warning signs and odor control, if necessary.

Environmental concerns raised since the project was first proposed have been addressed, Leary said, and her company has been working with the Ayer Conservation Commission and Devens Enterprise Commission, the one-stop permitting authority for Devens.

From site preparation and pumping to excavation to habitat restoration, the work should take two to three months, Leary said, wrapping up in September or October.

RAB and PACE member Laurie Nehring asked Simeone to reach out to Ayer businessman Calvin Moore, who owns a deteriorating dam that he's been fixing and which might be affected by the project. Although he is on the RAB mailing list, he should be specifically notified that major work is about to begin, Nehring said. Simeone agreed.