North Castle’s environmental consultant reported last week that the storage of road millings at the town’s Middle Patent Road highway yard and at the Highway Department site in downtown Armonk poses no threat to drinking water.
Ryan Manderbach, vice president at Langan Engineering, said sampling that had been conducted from the nearest wells to the Middle Patent Road site dating back to 2015 has never shown detectable levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), chemicals present in millings, which are also known as Recycled Asphalt Product (RAP).
The nearest wells are roughly a half-mile, about 2,700 feet, from where the millings have been stored, he said.
“Best management practices are in place, there are more being placed and with the drinking water all the evidence points to no impact from the RAP piles on the drinking water supply,” Manderbach said.
There is also no threat posed to Water District #4, which takes in downtown Armonk where the Highway Department site is located.
Manderbach said the properties of PAHs make them stick to soil and the chemicals also have very low water solubility. Therefore, even when they leach from the materials, they don’t move very far.
“So for these two factors, just the potential to leach from the soil is already very low,” Manderbach said.
The issue of the town storing RAP at the two locations turned into a full-blown controversy this summer when former town Planning Board chairman and Windmill Farm resident Robert Greene began circulating town-wide e-mails stating that the water supply for the development and the nearby Coman Hill Elementary School could be jeopardized.
Municipalities are encouraged to recycle millings by using them to repave roads. Over the past six to eight years, North Castle has aggressively repaved most of its 93 miles of town road.
Manderbach said multiple studies, including from the University of Florida in 1998 and a 2017 report from the New Jersey Department of Transportation, concluded that waste asphalt does not pollute groundwater.
Despite the encouraging findings, several speakers, including Greene, pressed the town to allow a second expert that he and other residents would hire to have access to the Middle Patent yard to conduct their own testing. Greene said that protection of a water supply is a serious enough issue to take that extra step.
“Most people say let’s get a second opinion,” he said. “We all like our family doctor but when we get bad news, we like to go get another opinion. So here we have an opportunity, the board has an opportunity, to get that second opinion without any cost to the taxpayers, and that’s how concerned our group is. We’ll foot the bill for that.”
Another resident, Susan Shimer, a former town justice, questioned why there shouldn’t be another expert. In her career as an attorney, she said there was often disagreement among experts on issues and that she would be more comfortable with another report.
Board members indicated they would reject suggestions for another environmental consultant to have access to the Middle Patent yard; however, the Langan Engineering report is available for anyone to read, including any consultant hired by the residents, said Supervisor Michael Schiliro.
Manderbach also said that the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) had made a recent site visit to both locations and no action, violations or other regulatory action is anticipated.
“The DEC can sometimes be very painful to work with for people who are developers, municipalities; difficult meaning so stringent,” Schiliro said. “We follow their guidelines. They inspect our properties. They do that continually.”
Councilwoman Barbara DiGiacinto said any suggestion that officials didn’t take the questions raised by residents seriously was off base.
“Do you think as a Town Board member, and the entire Town Board, we would sleep at night thinking that we’ve had this serious problem of water contamination and we would just try to ignore or cover it up?” DiGiacinto said.
Manderbach recommended in the short term for the town to shore up perimeter controls around the piles, have personnel make biweekly inspections and provide continued training for town staff regarding the management of the millings. Many of the controls have already been in place, he said.
He also suggested a written long-term control plan that would outline inspection frequency, training and maintenance obligations and have any future recipient of the millings to fill out a report.
Councilman Jose Berra suggested to Greene to have any environmental consultant that the residents hire, obtain and analyze Langan Engineering’s report.