Chelmsford Conservation Commission Evaluates Environmental Impact of Local Projects

The Chelmsford Conservation Commission’s recent meeting centered on discussions regarding the environmental impact assessments of multiple development projects, specifically addressing concerns about potential contamination to the town’s water supply, the preservation of vernal pools, and the need for a peer review to assess potential violations and restoration within critical habitat regions.

One notable topics discussed at the meeting was the proposed development on Hildreth Street which is situated over the town aquifer. There was a discussion about the potential contamination of toxins into the town drinking water. The commission underscored the importance of protecting water supplies, ground supply, flood control, storm damage prevention, pollution prevention, and wildlife habitat. The commission was urged to conduct specific studies or testing regarding plants and roots to ensure that there would not be any toxins released into the aquifer if plants or soils are removed or disturbed.

Furthermore, the potential environmental impact of a proposed car wash facility was carefully reviewed, with commission members and representatives from Hancock Associates and the applicant engaging in a conversation. There was a particular emphasis on ensuring that the car wash’s operations would not pose a risk to storm drain systems and that the products used would be PFAS-free. The commission also discussed the need for a comprehensive stormwater operation and maintenance plan to prevent illicit discharges and maintain good housekeeping practices. Debates ensued about whether certain recommendations should be included in the operation and maintenance plan or as permit conditions.

The commission also addressed the need for an independent peer review due to concerns about tree loss in critical flood and habitat regions. The conversation focused on the possibility of hiring a peer reviewer to analyze historical data, including photos and plans, to determine if there had been any noticeable tree cutting within the commission’s jurisdiction. The commission considered consulting with Town Council to clarify the commission’s legal authority to protect the nesting area in the buffer zone, emphasizing the need for a legal opinion to guide their decision-making.

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During the meeting, the commission discussed the 191 Chelmsford Street project, which was continued from a previous meeting. The representative for the applicant stated that they were in the planning process and were awaiting the traffic peer review. Potential concerns were raised, including monitoring wells and the risk of posos (a chemical) entering the stormwater system and migrating into the town’s wellhead protection zone.

Additionally, the commission explored the review of a development project on Brick Kiln Road, focusing on potential Vernal pools in the nearby wetland areas. Interest was expressed in conducting further surveys to determine the presence of Vernal pool species and to monitor the buffer zone’s afforestation. Unauthorized tree clearing within the buffer zone was also scrutinized, with the commission reviewing aerial photos to assess the extent of the clearing and its impact on the buffer zone, floodplains, and Riverfront area.

There was a consensus to continue monitoring the potential Vernal pool areas and to assess the extent of tree clearing within the buffer zone, particularly for the 10 Hildreth Street project. The commission discussed the possibility of further analysis or hiring a peer reviewer to investigate any unauthorized clearing within the jurisdiction.

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A discussion about the commission’s right to protect wetlands and the bordering vegetated wetlands (BVW) was also of note. The commission affirmed its ability and right to protect these areas, as stated in the bylaws of Chelmsford. Concerns about flooding in the area were discussed, with the potential impact of tree cutting on flooding and land usage being a point of concern.

Regarding the management of various properties, there was a debate about the commission’s responsibility and budget for requests such as the removal of trees from an adjacent conservation lot. Furthermore, the commission expressed frustration at the slow progress of an enforcement order for a property on Billerica Road, which had been ongoing for over a year. There was a discussion on potential steps, including seeking a legal opinion from Town Council and possibly going to court.

Lastly, the commission covered concerns related to septic systems and leeching fields, particularly their potential effects on the aquifer and groundwater. The potential for septic systems to impact groundwater due to chemicals like PFOS was discussed, as well as the jurisdictional limitations and the need to consider potential contamination from items such as old boats and trailers on the property.

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Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Town Manager:
Paul Cohen
Environmental Commission Officials:

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