1,500 Sign Petition Opposing Asphalt Plant in Westford, MA

WESTFORD - A petition signed by more than 1,500 residents opposed to the proposed Groton Road asphalt plant was presented last night to the Planning Board.

Alisa Nakashian-Holsberg, who presented the petition, assured the board, "This drive is by no means over." Nakashian-Holsberg is a member of the Route 40 Clean Air Coalition, which sponsored the drive.

She had a copy of the inch-thick document for each member of the Planning Board as well as one for the applicant, Newport Materials LLC.

The board received the petition without comment except that it "will be in each member's packet for the next meeting."

The discussion last night focused on civil-engineering aspects of the proposed plant, particularly fire safety, drainage and storm-water run-off.

John Borgesi of Woodard and Curran highlighted 11 remaining engineering issues, including a proposal to use a 10,000-gallon cistern to provide the Fire Department with water in emergency situations.

Board member Fred Palmer said, "I would be surprised and concerned if the fire engineer didn't ask for at last 20,000 gallons. The Fire Department would be very challenged with a 10,000-gallon cistern."

Newport Materials has engaged a fire engineer to evaluate the cistern.

Chris Lorrain of LandTech Consultants, the engineering and design firm working with Newport Materials, advised the board that asphalt has a very high flash point, unlike gasoline.

Board member Dennis Galvin said he wants to know "exactly how the fire system works." He has asked for a presentation on special fire-protection features of the equipment.

Galvin also asked if the Planning Board intends to have an independent study of the fire-safety issues done.

Douglas Deschenes, the attorney representing Newport Materials, argued against such a review.

"We have had several meetings with (Fire Lt.) Don Parsons about this," he said. "He gave us advice on our hiring an expert. I would like the board to hear Mr. Parsons on this."

Galvin said that in two recent cases, Parsons "deferred to our peer reviewer."

Board member Andrea Peraner-Sweet suggested that the board ask Fire Chief Richard Rochon and Parsons to attend the next meeting.

Some discussion also occurred last night regarding the visibility of the four silos that will be used in the manufacturing process.

Some neighbors asked for information about what the final appearance of the silos would be and what they would look like from the street. Deschenes responded that Newport Materials several months ago placed a crane at the site that matched the height of the silos. It was there for two weeks for the Planning Board's inspection.

"But we couldn't see it," one resident said.

"That's the point," Deschenes answered.

The facility is set 1,700 feet from the road and should not be visible, he added.

Newport Materials last week received its air permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection for the facility based on the tests and studies it submitted.