Letter: Aquifer protection meeting will be contentious

To the Editor:
I strongly disagree with the decision by the Board of Selectmen on May 8 to grant merely an advisory role on aquifers to the Inland Wetlands Board (IWB) to Planning & Zoning (P&Z), when that board becomes a separate entity in the forthcoming November election.
The town vote last year to separate the IWB from P&Z was overwhelmingly in favor. I don’t think it was the intent of those favoring it that “wetlands” should just mean surface water, and not the underlying aquifers just below them and broadly elsewhere.
In fact, as I understand it, actual prospective nominees for the IWB from both political parties are well qualified in understanding potential water contaminants, as well as dangers, of many types, not just to surface waters but to the aquifers below the surface. I view it as appropriate that the IWB people, not P&Z members, who largely lack such expertise, have the decision making and not just an advisory role (which advice could be ignored by P&Z).
Although the potential for contaminants may have been addressed in some affected P&Z decisions, the fact that only 10 minutes total was spent last year by P&Z discussing aquifer protection is alarming. Especially also alarming is the fact that at the May 14 P&Z meeting reviewing the planned new sewer plant, the meeting was about to be brought to a close when a nearby resident noted potential adverse nearby aquifer impacts, only then acknowledged and now leading to a forthcoming impact study.
P&Z apparently has an aquifer map, but it would be no problem passing that or a copy thereof onto the new IWB.
The selectmen have authorized changing a town ordinance that now assigns aquifer protection responsibilities to P&Z “in their capacity as the Inland Wetlands Board.”
As written, that would no longer be the P&Z capacity, but the capacity of the new IWB. The selectmen authorized new language returning aquifer responsibility to P&Z to be drafted and put to a vote Sept. 4. I call on the selectmen to reverse their position and have aquifer responsibility go to the IWB as the current ordinance implies, and where that skill set would lie, and not force what would likely be a very contentious town meeting.
William R. Jaeger
Circle Drive East, May 17