NEWINGTON - Environmental experts from Toll Brothers, and the independent team brought in by Newington, presented conflicting findings regarding the sedimentary composition at the center wetland on the proposed Cedar Mountain development space at a Conservation Commission public hearing last Tuesday, Dec. 4.
The inconsistency between the two testimonies--the first one, from Ron Abrams of the Toll Brothers-hired Dru Associates, and the second by George Logan of REMA Ecological Services LLC--is regarding the presence of a clay layer that the applicants claim will prevent water from leaking out of the wetland.
“This is a confining layer keeping the water above separated from anything below; below being sand and gravel,” Abrams told the Commission.
Dru Associates and REMA agreed that there is a clay layer surrounding the outside of the center wetland, but Logan said that he has yet to find strong evidence of the same composition moving inward.
“If the clay layer’s not there--I’m speculating that it is, but I don’t know--the interface of ground water and the surrounding area is a different animal,” he said.
Because the wetland’s driest and wettest periods were consistent with the amount of rainfall in a given year, the area is solely dependent on rain and snow melt-related precipitation, Abrams said. Dru Associates presented a study highlighting the past 11 years, four of which saw less than 40 inches of rain in the area, the wetlands driest years. In the four years that saw more than 50 inches of rain, water levels were at their highest, he said.
“The basin was pretty much as full as it gets in one of the wet years,” Abrams said.
Dru Associates and REMA will be going back out to take another look, but if they do not find the clay layer reported by the applicant’s team of experts, claims regarding the wetlands source of water will likely be challenged, Logan said.
The inconsistencies continue to erode the patience of the Newington and Wethersfield residents that have attended the hearings.
“Please don’t be swayed by biased research,” said Newington resident Gail Budrejko during the public comment segment. “This development might bring short-term economic benefits, but it will put the ecosystem in jeopardy.”
The middle of the wetland is either a “bowl,” in that the suspected clay layer dips and may have questionable thickness, or a “hole,” meaning that it is not there, Logan said.
“If there’s a hole in the middle or there’s sand, there’s more of the sand influence, so there’s more ground water influence,” he said.
This is not the first time reports by Dru Associates and REMA have conflicted. At the last meeting, REMA revealed the presence of an endangered tree species, the swamp cottonwood. The presence of the swamp cottonwood had already been reported to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which will review the situation and collaborate with the town and applicant in the event the proposal advances further, Logan said.
“In this case they’re going to look at potential indirect impacts, like change of hydrology, change of chemistry of the wetland,” he said.
The greatest danger to the swamp cottonwood is the addition of more trees because it thrives on an absence of shade, according to REMA. Allowing the wetland to become dryer may accommodate more trees, putting the endangered species at risk.