Jorling wants study on waterline

By Linda CarmanPrint Story | Email Story
WILLIAMSTOWN — A former selectman and longtime environmental official said Monday that the proposed town waterline extension should not be undertaken without a formal environmental study of its consequences. Tom Jorling, whose area of expertise is safe drinking water and water pollution control, called for “a disciplined environmental analysis” and analysis of alternatives. While the Selectmen have yet to hear Jorling’s assertion, at Monday night’s meeting, Selectman Philip Guy dismissed waterline opponents’ fears of widespread development, noting that development requires a catalyst, such as proximity to a large employment base, which would not happen in Northern Berkshire. Jorling, who has publicly opposed the waterline extension, said, “In all my professional experience, the results of a project of such magnitude without a disciplined environmental analysis are regrettable.” He warned that without the sound environmental reasons for the current 21/2-acre lots required by Rural Residence 3 zoning along Cold Spring Road, that zoning could be vulnerable to a legal challenge from a developer. He also strongly criticized the non-profit designation for Northern Berkshire Health Systems’ 68-unit Sweetwood expansion. “In my experience of over 40 years, the engine of sprawl is a dynamic one,” he said. “Once you erode the ability to limit sprawl by allowing land development, you can’t turn it off. Already, in terms of parking lots and roofs, we’ve got world class sprawl at Sweetwood and Sweet Brook.” Jorling was instrumental in designing the Cold Spring Road sewer line which, at its smallest point is 2 1/2 inches in diameter, a limitation deliberately aimed at curbing growth along the town’s scenic southern corridor. Failure to perform an environmental analysis, akin to an environmental impact report, could mean “shifting the burden of risk to the town,” Jorling said. It’s a multimillion-dollar risk that hasn’t been evaluated,” he said. Jorling headed New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation from 1987 to 1994 and was assistant administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from 1977 to 1980. He said he thought when he retired he would leave environmental battles behind but, he added, “I can’t do it when it’s my hometown.” Jorling and some others have downplayed one stated aim of the waterline, providing enough volume in a 16-inch diameter pipe for a sprinkler system at the Mount Greylock Regional High School, when the 40-year-old building undergoes substantial renovations that are still in the early stages of planning. “Many in town say we should not upgrade the school at that place,” Jorling said, raising one of a number of factors that underlie opposition to the waterline extension. Some residents favor opting out of the school district, whose member towns are Williamstown and Lanesboro, and restructuring as a solely Williamstown high school, as part of a K-12 district. Another specter in the wings is a possible subdivision at Waubeeka Golf Course, although it is beyond the end of the proposed waterline, which would end at the high school Another environmentalist who raised the possibility of moving the high school was Williams College biology professor Henry A. Art, who termed it, “an attractive thing to at least explore.” It could, he said, mean recovering the Lowry property — originally acquired by the town as a site for the high school but now under conservation restriction. “If there’s a 16-inch pipe out Cold Spring Road, that could drive us to making that decision” Art said. He called the waterline “a cannon aimed at South Williamstown,” where Waubeeka golf course is often mentioned in connection with feared development. And, he observed, “Massive leisure-home development, such as is taking place in New Ashford at Brodie and Hancock at Jiminy Peak, could spill into Williamstown.” Art also called for a thorough exploration of whether perchlorate, the contaminant found in the high school’s wells this past April, could have found its way into the groundwater to taint other surrounding wells. At Monday’s meeting, Guy said he does not believe that the waterline would create massive development along the Route 7 corridor. “Today, there is nothing stopping development of the open lot — which I believe there are 17 — along Route 7 from the Captain’s Table to the high school,” he said. “The fact of the matter is that getting water on these lots is probably not an issue. You can drill a well for less than $10,000 and usually come up with water. This is not a deterrent, with land and housing prices what they are today.” Guy said while public infrastructure can foster development, water is less important than sewers and both less important than roads and electricity. He also argued that development in the area would be discouraged by rocky and steep hills, dense woodlands, wetlands, ground conditions and deed restrictions. While infrastructure such as a waterline might aid the development process, the actual catalyst to significant development — at its worst urban sprawl — would be location near major employment, Guy said. “You first need a catalyst, which would be a population growth spurred on by a large opportunity for employment. …As everyone knows, the opportunities for employment in the Berkshires, especially any remaining manufacturing, continue to tighten,” he said. And, he noted, over the past 35 years, Williamstown’s population has dropped by 30 percent. Instead of sprawl, Guy said recent development here has been “ex-urbanite” — large, expensive second homes built by urbanites seeking a more secluded environment. They have proliferated along Oblong Road, Gale Road, Ide Road, Sloan Road, Stone Hill Road, Bee Hill Road, Northwest Hill Road, Stoney Ledge and Pine Cobble, he said. He argued that development would not spiral out of control because that would diminish the town’s character and so reduce the demand. Guy argued that only the municipal solution proposed could provide the high school with safe, adequate drinking water. Filtration systems, he said, require water operators to test as often as daily to ensure that contaminants are removed.
0 Comments welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to

Cultural Pittsfield This Week: July 12-18

Next Thursday, July 18 is 3rd Thursday: Food & Drink!
July's 3rd Thursday celebrates the city's cuisine, with more than a dozen food vendors popping up at the celebration, along with the two dozen brick-and-mortar restaurants that dot North Street. There will be almost 100 vendors in all! 
3rd Thursday's presenting sponsor, Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, will be offering FREE snow cones at Palace Park. The Boy Scouts of America will be bringing its rock climbing wall, and Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness will offer FREE Zumba in Park Square. 
Entertainment will be provided by Berkshire Bateria, Jacob's Pillow and Music in Common, plus enjoy a sneak peak at Barrington Stage and Ragtag Theatre's  Hansel and Gretel and Berkshire Theatre Group's Shrek The Musical. 5-8 p.m.
The Let's Go Pink Art Exhibition is a cancer awareness exhibit that will be on view at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield throughout October, 2019. The opening reception will be Friday, Oct. 4 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. as part of that month's First Friday Artswalk. A portion of all sales will benefit two local organizations: 20% of sales to BTG PLAYS!, 15% of sales to BMC Integrative Health Program's intuitive painting class for cancer patients, and the other 65% to the artist. Submissions will be accepted until Friday, Sept. 6. All artists will be notified of acceptance on or before Sept. 9. For more information, please email the Let's Go Pink 2019 team at
100 Years of Nat King ColeCelebrate the centennial birthday of the unforgettable Nat King Cole with timeless songs and intimate stories told and sung by two-time Grammy nominee Clint Holmes, accompanied by award-winning pianist and vibraphonist Christian Tamburr. Mr. Finn's Cabaret at Barrington Stage Company. 
FRI Blue Light Trio at Rainbow | FRI Hunks: The Show at The A | FRI Lita Williams at Hotel on North | FRI Karaoke Night at Friends | FRI Jessica Wilson at Rusty Anchor | SAT Food for Thought Dinner w/Simon Winchester at Hancock Shaker Village | SAT Rock 'n' Roll Dance Party at Polish Falcons | SAT Jason & Trev at J. Allen's | SAT Dan Gingras at Rusty Anchor | MON Berkshire Athenaeum Book Club at Hotel on North | MON Jazz Night at Mission | TUE Green Drinks at J. Allen's | WED Live on the Lake: Shyne at Onota Lake | WED Gruppo Mondo at Rainbow | THU Lady Di & The Dukes at Mazzeo's | THU Fabrizio & The Fever at Rainbow | THU The Picky B's at Mission

Explore the science of YOU during this annual celebration of science, invention and sensory fun! Explore the brain, transform into a germ, follow the life of a sneeze and more. Don't miss the grand finale at 7:15 p.m. Berkshire Museum. FREE, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
FRI WeeMuse: Adventures at Berkshire Museum FRI Yoga for Kids at Berkshire Athenaeum FRI-THU Parenting Classes & Play Groups at Berkshire Children & Families | SAT Pop-up Play Day at Berkshire Museum | SAT Chow Time at Berkshire Museum SAT Designing with da Vinci at Berkshire Museum SAT Sensory-friendly Screening: Incredibles 2 at Berkshire Museum SAT da Vinci After Hours at Berkshire Museum SUN Discovery Tank Program at Berkshire Museum | MON Exploring Our World at Berkshire Museum MON Kindergarten Countdown at Berkshire Athenaeum MON Star Lab at Berkshire Athenaeum MON Stardust Cafe at Berkshire Athenaeum MON+ Learn to Code at Miss Hall's School TUE WeeMuse: Littlest Learners at Berkshire Museum TUE Designing with da Vinci at Berkshire Museum TUE Circus Minimus at Berkshire Athenaeum TUE Project SpaceCRAFT at Berkshire Athenaeum TUE Screening of Wall-E at Berkshire Athenaeum WED Little Gardeners of the Galaxy at Berkshire Athenaeum WED Solar System Paint & Snack at Berkshire Athenaeum WED Gallery Scavenger Hunts at Berkshire Museum THU Farm Friends at Hancock Shaker Village | THU Exploring Our World at Berkshire Museum THU Designing with da Vinci at Berkshire Museum THU Lego Lift Off at Berkshire Athenaeum THU Story Time at Berkshire Athenaeum
SAT Restorative Yoga w/Live Music at BYDF
View Full Story

More Stories