GRAFTON, Mass.—The Grafton & Upton Railroad has made “significant improvements” to protect neighboring wetlands after an enforcement order by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection was filed in December stemming from the railroad’s land-excavating operation.
Edmund J. Coletta Jr., director of the Office of Public Affairs at the MassDEP, said in a telephone interview that his agency is satisfied – for now – with the upgrades after a site visit in mid-December found significant violations on the abutting property that caused Pratt’s Pond to turn brown from soil runoff after rainstorms.
“The DEP inspectors were last on the site Dec. 19,” Coletta said, adding they were satisfied that erosion control measures such as hay bales and silt fences would protect the pond and Big Brummet Brook if another rainstorm should occur.
“At this point, no further appointments are scheduled,” he said.
MassDEP found four violations Dec. 13 and 14 that they saw as a threat to the water, including, “substantial filling and grading activities around the riverfront area of Big Bummet Brook, in the buffer zone of the brook and Pratt’s Pond.”
The order also cited that “5,000 cubic yards of soil in the area did not have effective erosion and sedimentation controls like hay bales, silt fences, which has resulted in the brown discharge in to the wetlands.”
It also said the railroad’s stockpiling of soil altered the riverfront area and that a 50-foot pile of soil within 20 feet of Big Bummet Brook did not have adequate erosion controls and was a threat to completely fill it in.
Despite the progress, the issue is not resolved. Coletta said the railroad filed an appeal Dec. 31 after the improvements to protect their legal rights, but did not elaborate. Railroad owner Jon Delli Priscoli did not respond to a request for an interview.
However, in an early December interview before the order was issued, Delli Priscoli said his policy is to work in good faith with state regulators despite claiming his railroad is pre-empted from local laws.
Coletta said a pre-hearing conference has been set for early February to try to settle the matter. If that doesn't work, he said a future site visit and a hearing in May might be the next steps.
Beginning Jan. 15, Delli Priscoli and Grafton will argue in a federal court whether the railroad and its claim of pre-emption in building a propane transfer station on Westborough Road is valid.
When asked if the pending trial in federal court between Delli Priscoli and Grafton would have any effect on MassDEP’s legal direction if the judge rules in favor of the railroad he said, “Not really sure. We’ll be keeping an eye to see if it has any impact on the state side.”