Cheshire County told to clean up demolition debris

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WESTMORELAND, N.H. — The improper disposal of construction and demolition debris at the old Cheshire County Jail on River Road was not malicious in any way, said Cheshire County Administrator Christopher C. Coates.

"When this came about, we reacted quickly," Coates told the Reformer. "I was alerted on Saturday, and I was on-site on Monday."

On Friday, the Reformer received a tip that cinder blocks and other materials from the demolition were being dumped over a bank.

"As soon as we were made aware of the situation, we stopped the transportation of materials," said Coates.

The county had the state's nod of approval to dispose of cinder blocks and rebar, but when investigators from the spill response team arrived, they noticed there was fiberglass insulation and other materials in the debris as well, according to Jim Martin, spokesman for the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, t

"We expect the county to remove the material," said Martin. "They will need to provide us with a work plan on how they plan to remove it and tell us where the material will eventually be disposed."

Coates said the original intent in depositing the debris along the bank was to stop erosion that was occurring.

"It had been brought to our attention by the individual farming the land that runoff has been eroding the bank into the field and has taken some trees down," he said.

The intent was to fill in the eroded area with cinder blocks and rebar and cover it over with dirt and rocks, said Coates. Now the county will have to remove the debris and come up with a new plan to prevent the erosion.

"We have been working very closely with multiple people at DES to insure the proper disposal of debris," he said. "We had made the decision to leave the debris on site, but now we are going to take it all out."

The county originally budgeted $255,000 for the project, but when the requests for proposal were provided, a demolition company from Westminster, Mass., said it could be done for $124,000. Another $55,000 was set aside for asbestos removal. Coates said this means the county won't have to go back to the budget to find the money to clean up the improper disposal or figure out an erosion-proofing alternative.

Adam Kennison, who lives in Newfane, Vt., but runs Black Mountain Landscape in Chesterfield, said he was driving to a job on River Road when he noticed the disposal of the debris.

"No way they are allowed to be doing that," Kennison told the Reformer. "There was all sorts of trash that shouldn't have been in there."

Kennison said his major concern was the fact that the disposal site was about 400 yards from the Connecticut River, and anything that was washing down the bank might end up in the river.

"I am very glad this is being taken care of," he said. "We don't need this kind of stuff just thrown around."

"There was nothing malicious going on," said Coates. "It was our desire to take down a building that was in decay and is an eyesore."

And the county wants to do it right, said Coates, because it wants to preserve the agricultural use of the land and will soon be renovating Maplewood Nursing Home, which is next door to the old jail.

Martin said the county has been given the go ahead to start removing some of the debris and not leave it there all winter. "Ultimately, it will all be removed early next year, depending on weather."

The jail, which was built in the 1970s, remained in use until 2010, when the county took possession of the new county jail on Route 101 on the border of Keene and Marlborough.

Attempts were made to re-use the building, but no viable plans were submitted to the county. The county began demolition of the 35,000-square-foot building in November.

Bob Audette can be contacted at raudette@reformer.com.

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