CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The owner of the former North Adams Country Club is dismissing accusations that the property was used to dump contaminated waste.
"I can't imagine why anybody would bring material in from somewhere else when we have 80 acres worth of material up there," Todd Driscoll told News10 on Thursday.
He said the paper pulp seen on the site was pre-engineered top soil that grows grass really well and that the complaints were because residents don't like the large solar array installed on the property.
iBerkshires had tried to contact Driscoll at his business and was told he was out of town.
Resident John Arigoni on a Facebook post described the property as a "pristine golf course turned into toxic waste dump." He's made the same accusations at a recent public hearing on permitting for a Verizon cell tower on the property.
The town has been concerned over developments at the 100-year-old course. It was purchased from a financially failing nonprofit association with plans to expand it into an 18-hole course. That proposal's been downgraded significantly to a par 3 and it's changed hands, and the Planning Board has expressed its frustration in the past because the project had overstepped its excavation permit.
Town Administrator Carl McKinney said on Thursday that it was apparent paper pulp waste had been spread out at the property. He was not aware of any permits for bringing the product in but had contacted the state Department of Environmental Protection about it and the allegations raised on Facebook and at the hearings.
The town has a letter from the DEP for paper waste manufactured at Cascade Tissue Group in Mechanicville, N.Y., from 2015 renewing its use in composting and land application.
"But I don't know if it's particular to the product or to that site ... and whether it's inert or has some chemical composition," McKinney said.
He said he had filled in DEP on the history of the course but noted that the town currently has nothing to act on.
"We're moving quickly but with a measure of caution because at the current time, these are allegations and the town does not have any verification of the toxicity of any of these," he said.
Driscoll has told town boards that the addition of a solar array and cell tower are necessary to make the project feasible.
"The reality is the whole plan has to work together," Driscoll told the Planning Board back in 2015. "We go solar, we go bigger, without it we can't survive ... It would be a shame to see it not survive ...
"You can't make any money on the golf course."
The 4,000-panel array is complete but not online; the 140-foot cell tower has had some bumpy public hearings and the Planning Board has yet to make a determination.
Arigoni claims that the permitted materials trucked out of the property was done to make room for contaminated fill that would buried under the cell tower, which would sit on a concrete pad.
However, the waste he says came from the old Mohawk auto junkyard in North Adams was removed by Maxymillian Technologies in 2011 as part of site preparation for the Walmart Supercenter.
According to documents filed with the DEP by BVS 5401 Investors LLC, operating as Walmart, 100 cubic yards of contaminated soil was removed to Solid Waste Solutions LLC in Northfield. Barrels of sludge were taken first to Maxymillian's facility in Pittsfield and later with asphalt materials to a facility in Albany, N.Y.
The remediation was done in October and November of 2011 prior to grading for the Walmart construction. The country club changed hands in 2011 but plans for the 18-hole course were not unveiled until 2013, a couple weeks before Walmart opened.
Photos Arigoni posted to Facebook show the paper pulp on the property, tracks from equipment, piles of dirt and pools of stained water. He also listed possible toxic elements from paper waste; most of the elements are used widely in numerous everyday objects, although a few can be dangerous in high quantities or certain circumstances.
McKinney said the town understood residents' concerns about possible water contamination, particularly after the water issues in nearby Hoosick Falls, N.Y., and North Bennington, Vt.
"We are sensitive to that. We'll do everything within our power to ascertain it is not a toxic waste dump," he said.
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