Epsom erosion-control project gets boost from unrelated wetlands settlement
The Suncook river rushes through town on May 15, 2006. The swollen river jumped its banks and changed the course of the river through Epsom.
(Concord Monitor photo/Ken Williams)
The Suncook river rushes through Suncook on May 15, 2006. The swollen river jumped its banks and changed the course of the river upstream, through Epsom.
(Concord Monitor photo/Ken Williams)
The effort to halt erosion of Leighton Brook and the Suncook River in Epsom is getting a boost from the settlement of an unrelated wetlands case in Kingston.
“This is really a win-win for the state,” said Assistant Attorney General Evan Mulholland. “It’s a really expensive project that’s being worked on.”
The problems in Epsom and neighboring towns go back to May 2006, when flooding caused an avulsion, in which the river jumped its bank and found a new course.
As a result, erosion has been moving up the river and the brook, a tributary, and officials worry two bridges – one carrying Route 4 over the Suncook River and another carrying Black Hall Road over Leighton Brook – could eventually be undermined.
The erosion “becomes a potential threat to that infrastructure,” said Shane Csiki, a fluvial geomorphology specialist, or river scientist, at the state Department of Environmental Services.
A solution, Csiki said, would be to build some sort of barrier in each waterway to halt the erosion. But because the avulsion gave the river and the brook shorter courses and faster flows, they would need to be substantial barriers.
That’s where Torromeo Industries Inc. comes in. The company was investigated back in 2009 for problems at its gravel mine and concrete plant in Kingston, and officials determined it had filled in some 12.5 acres of wetlands. The attorney general’s office describes it as the largest-ever illegal wetlands fill in New Hampshire.
Mulholland said more than two years of negotiations led to the settlement announced Thursday by the state and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Torromeo will pay a $135,000 federal civil penalty, help restore the Kingston wetlands and spend $500,000 to undertake a project at Cobbett’s Pond in Windham designed to reduce stormwater pollution.
In addition, the company will pay a $700,000 state penalty, with $225,000 suspended on the condition it restores the wetlands. The rest of the penalty will be paid as $175,000 in cash and 8,333 tons of specially cut stone for the stabilization project in Epsom.
The state has exacting specifications “for the project, in terms of size and density,” Mulholland said.
He said it’s not unusual for DES civil settlements to include unrelated remediation work, called “supplemental environmental projects.” But, he said, it is unusual for it to be paid in kind, as with the stone.
Torromeo has been cooperative with state and federal regulators, Mulholland said, and restoration work is already in progress. Csiki said design work is under way for the Epsom project, but she didn’t have details on the project’s timetable or overall cost.
Anything that helps address the erosion is good news, said Don Harty, chairman of the Epsom Board of Selectmen.
He said residents worry not just about problems with Route 4 and Black Hall Road, but also damage from erosion and flooding to athletics fields behind Epsom Central School.
“The concern is, if the river is not stabilized and . . . you get a big whopper of a storm, it’s going to take those fields out,” Harty said.
He added, “To lose something like that due to inaction from the state would be a tragedy.”
(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)