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Massive lower Liberty Hill cleanup project will start next month

GILFORD — A decade after toxic coal tar was first discovered beneath house lots off Lower Liberty Hill Road, work to remove it is slated to begin next month.

Speaking to a public meeting last night Jim Ash of GEI Consultants, Inc., who has overseen the remediation of the site for a since the contamination was reported, said the project will proceed in two phases over the next two construction seasons. Altogether 93,000 cubic yards of soil, of which between 40,000 and 45,000 are expected to be contaminated and require treatment, will be excavated.

In the 1950s the coal tar, a by-product from a manufactured gas plant in Laconia, was dumped in a sand and gravel pit on the south side of lower Liberty Hill Road, which was subsequently reclaimed and divided into house lots. However, it was only discovered by KeySpan, the corporate successor to the original gas company which was itself acquired by National Grid in 2007, in the course of litigation in 2004. Of the four house lots — 69, 77, 83 and 87 — directly affected by the old dump, National Grid has acquired and demolished three in anticipation of excavating the site and dealing with the contaminated soils.

Ash estimated that 28,000 cubic yards would be removed and 27,000 cubic yards returned in 2,800 truckloads in the first phase and 12,000 cubic yards removed and 27,000 returned in 1,200 truckloads in the second phase. Altogether 2,000 truckloads of contaminated soil will be hauled from the site and an equal number carrying clean soil will return. A cubic yard of soil weighs approximately 1.33 tons.

Preparations will begin in March, weather permitting, Ash said. The site will be fenced and the vegetation cleared. A roadway and wash facility for the trucks will be built, together with a water treatment system. All groundwater removed from the soil before it is transported will be treated to standards set by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Air, noise and vibration monitoring systems will be erected. He expected these preparations would be complete within five to six weeks.

Ash noted that the thresholds for air pollution as well as noise and vibration levels at the perimeter of the site are "very conservative" and will be monitored around the clock. If the thresholds are breached, the contractor will be directed to change or suspend operations until specified levels are restored.

Throughout the course of the project Liberty Utilities will post a weekly update on its website — www.lowerlibertyhillsite.com. The company will also maintain a hotline — 603-216-3600 — and respond to questions and comments from the public within one business day.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 February 2014 02:11

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2-1 selectboard majority adds some teeth to Gilford's ban on consumer fireworks

GILFORD — Selectmen voted last night by a two-to-one margin to maintain the town's current ban on fireworks and to add some teeth to the ban that imposes fines for those who violate it.

The fines are $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second offense, and $500 for the third and any subsequent offenses.

Selectmen John O'Brien and Kevin Hayes voted for the ban while Selectman Gus Benevides voted against it.

The vote came after two attendees at last night's public hearing spoke — Walt Stockwell of Wesley Woods, who said he supported the ban because it was a public safety and noise issue and Matt Shea of Altas Fireworks of Belmont, who spoke against a ban.

Shea said all consumer-grade fireworks sold in New Hampshire are inspected and designed to be used by people who are using them for their own purposes on their own property.

He said his research showed Gilford's ban came in 1988 when consumer grade fireworks were still illegal in the state. When New Hampshire adopted its commercial fireworks laws some towns like Gilford continued to ban them.

Shea also said his primary concern with Gilford's ordinance was that fireworks can be shot off by professionals but not consumers.

Hayes also read a letter into the record from a local woman who said she couldn't be at the public hearing but was for the ban because common sense and beer don't go together — echoing a statement made a few weeks ago by O'Brien during a previous discussion about fireworks.

She also said that despite the ban, when residents call the police with fireworks complaints, the police say they're coming but often don't.

O'Brien has been the leading voice for the fireworks ban over the past few years. After last night's public hearing he said he considers it a public safety issue and that the first role of selectmen is to enact ordinances that keep the general public safe.

He said no place in Gilford is free of dried leaves and he supports the ban because fireworks are also a fire hazard — especially during the summer.

O'Brien said he didn't expect the police to be driving around looking for fireworks violators but said wants to see them respond when they are called for complaints.

Benevides has long been opposed to a fireworks ban in Gilford. Reading from a prepared statement, he said that the town is seeking to ban something that is legal to possess and use in the state of New Hampshire.

He said he feared expensive legal challenges to the ban once someone is fined and dreads the day when the town is in court because someone had a sparkler.

Benevides said he feared the impact on what he said was an already over-burdened police department and said he wanted their resources used on drugs, rapes, drunk drivers, domestic violence and other criminal activity.

He also wanted to know how the police were going to enforce the rules for island residents, calling the fireworks ban a "law for some but not others."

"Our population swells (in the summer) and we can't expect them to know about this ban," Benevides said. "Residents and guests are our bread and butter."

He said he was also concerned that summer residents have had no opportunity to weigh in on the newest version of the ban. "This will not be received well," he said.

Going to his personal philosophy, he said government, in this case the Board of Selectmen, should meet the needs of residents and that people should take more personal responsibility and not need the government to tell them what to do — especially with legally-possessed item like commercial fireworks.

He said he has never gotten a call from constituents complaining about fireworks, has never gotten any letters or e-mails, and that people have not been "forming lines" at selectmen meeting to get them banned.

"Banning legal items is a dangerous path," he concluded.

As an alternative, he suggested banning them after a certain hour or placing the matter before the voters at an annual town meeting.

"Wow" said O'Brien, before saying Benevides sounded like a lobbyist for some fireworks manufacturer.

He said if faced with a legal challenge he would simply hold up a picture of a young girl who was burned over much of her body when a sparkler she was holding ignited the clothes she was wearing.

"It's strange to allow something so dangerous," he said.

Hayes called for the vote latest ban was enacted.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 February 2014 02:02

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Chief: local fire departments limited in how they can respond to hazmat crisis

LACONIA — Fire Chief Ken Erickson said yesterday that while his department is familiar with the flammable and hazardous materials stored and used by local businesses, its capacity to respond to incidents like the explosion that occurred at the New Hampshire Ball Bearing plant in Peterborough on Tuesday is limited.

The New Hampshire Fire Marshal yesterday said that explosion in Peterborough was "directly related to a nitric acid reaction" and has been classified as "an industrial accident."

Officials at the New Hampshire Ball Bearing facility in Laconia were not available for comment on Wednesday.

Erickson said that firms file reports of their hazardous materials on site annually, adding that local companies tend to keep such products in relatively small amounts and replenish them as necessary. He said that the departments is familiar with the layout of local plants and seeks to visit them at least every two years in order to prepared for any emergency that may occur.

However, Erickson emphasized that the department's first priority as the first responders to any emergency would be the safety of those involved. For example, he noted that on Tuesday firefighters and emergency medical technicians immediately decontaminated those who may have been exposed hazardous substances by the explosion, which involved hosing them down in frigid temperatures, and transported the injured to hospital. Erickson said that at the same time, the incident would be stabilized by shutting off electricity and gas supplies to the building.

Erickson said that if highly caustic, acidic or poisonous materials were released, the Central New Hampshire Haz-Mat Team would be called to the scene. "We can't protect firefighters from those kind of substances," he said. "We can evacuate the area and deny entry."

He recalled that in July, 2012 firefighters responded to ABC Fabricators at Cook Court to find some 275 gallons of nitric acid spilled inside the building. Although firefighters entered with breathing apparatus, Lieutenant Lisa Baldini ordered them out of the building when she sensed the fumes.

Erickson said that he was less concerned about the local industries, with which the department is familiar, than by the garages, sheds and barns that may contain flammable, volatile or hazardous materials unknown to the department and its personnel.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 February 2014 01:51

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After deliverative session amendment, Gilmanton Schools could double spending & still comply with proposed tax cap

GILMANTON — An attempt by some residents to impose a total property tax cap for three years on the School District went horribly awry Saturday when the  warrant article was changed from allowing "zero" increases to "$10 million" at the deliberative session of town meeting.

If the article passes on March 11, the School District cannot increase it's budget by more than $10-million per year. But the School District's total annual budget is less than than sum now.

As written, the article restricted the Gilmanton School District to a $0-increase for the next three budgets after the budget for the 2014-2015 school year. The article was submitted as a request to adopt the provision of RSA 32:5-b that allows districts and towns to adopt tax caps.

With the operating budget at $9.6 million for both this school year and the next, Superintendent Joe Fauci said he couldn't foresee an occasion where the Gilmanton School Budget would literally double in size.

He said if the zero-cap recommendation passed as petitioned, it would have frozen the budget regardless of contractual obligations, including the tuition needed to send their high school children to Gilford, or special education expenses.

Neither the School Board nor the Budget Committee supports a tax cap.

Fauci said he wanted to assure the voters that tax cap or not, he would continue to develop responsible budgets that allow the district to educate its students while keeping the concerns of the taxpayers in mind.

A second petitioned warrant article will, if passed, eliminate the School District High School Expendable Trust that holds about $30,000 in the event unanticipated students move to Gilmanton and need to be tuitioned to Gilford High School.

If it is eliminated, the money would return to the taxpayers.

According to Fauci, the expendable trust account was established in 2003 when the Gilmanton School District entered into its 20-year agreement to educate high school students in the neighboring  town.
He said the goal of the fund was to set aside enough money to cover two students.

At $17,425 per student, Fauci said the current fund balance would almost cover two students, which he said has traditionally been enough money.
Those who wish to eliminate it, including some member of the Budget Committee, said the fund has not been used for a number of years and that there is enough room in the regular operating budget to absorb the costs of a student or two should one or two of them move into the district mid-year.

In the same vein, the Budget Committee didn't recommend adding $10,000 to the Special Education Expendable Trust Fund that provides a cushion in the event a student who need special services moves into the district or moves into the district and needs to be placed into a specialized school. This article was placed on the warrant by the School District.

Right now, said Budget Committee Chair Brian Forst, the fund holds slightly over $190,000. He said the money is in a interest-bearing account and the amount of interest it will earn this year will bring it close to the $200,000 goal so the Budget Committee didn't recommend adding the $10,000.

Fauci said the district hasn't had to use the fund in a few years but supported adding to it because the costs of special education can be very high in some cases.
As an example, he said a child may need a full-time paraprofessional aid or may need to be sent outside of the district, however the district is still responsible for any costs incurred.

Voters go to the polls on March 11.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 February 2014 01:34

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