On July 17, 2023, the Superior Court in Brockton will hear a motion for an injunction brought by Carver residents on June 26, 2023 to shut down the 12-year old mining operation that the Carver Earth Removal Committee claims is “cranberry agriculture”. The court filings are posted below.
MassDEP says the water supply pond is three times the size needed for the landowners’ 12-acres of bogs
Expert says the pond fills up with enough water from the aquifer in a day to supply the bogs for a year — so why is mining allowed to continue?
Around Southeastern Massachusetts, companies posing as “cranberry farmers” claim they are building reservoirs for water for bogs in order to evade local bylaws — the reservoirs have nothing to do with cranberry agriculture
One of the most egregious scams in Southeastern Massachusetts is the claims by sand and gravel mining companies that they have to level hills and mine in the aquifer to make a pond for water to irrigate cranberry bogs. Not one of these operators and none of the state or local regulators who approve them have provided any evidence that the ponds are legitimately part of cranberry agriculture. That’s because they aren’t: the ponds are a scam to evade local zoning laws and extract as much sand and gravel from the land as possible. The sand and gravel they mine out of the aquifer is a valuable product. Almost all of it is sold for commercial purposes such as asphalt, concrete, and other products that have nothing to do with cranberries. Landowners with cranberry bogs on their land claim the land is in agriculture use even when only a few acres are actually being used for farming. Then they claim that mining next to the bog is an “incidental” agricultural operation — not a commercial mine. They do this in order to exploit zoning protections for “agriculture.”
Over the last few decades, at last a dozen or more hills have been leveled, wetlands destroyed and forests cleared to build these cranberry ponds. Town officials in Plymouth and Carver approve these scams without requiring any credible evidence from the mining operators that the size and volume of the reservoir is in any way related to the state standards for how much water is needed to irrigate an acre of cranberry bog. They don’t even require the mining operators — who hide behind the cloak of “cranberry farmers” to identify what bogs the water is supplying.
One typical example is the 12-year long mining operation by the defunct “Alex Johnson Cranberry Co.”, landowner Bette Maki and excavation company G. Lopes Construction of Taunton. See this egregious sit here: YouTube drone video.
In 2011, the Carver Earth Removal Committee issued Maki a permit to mine 545,000 cubic yards by leveling a hill to make a cranberry pond. That is worth about $8 million today. The operation has been running for over a decade despite harming residents and the environment and even though the permit expired. Unbelievably, even though the pond is built and the water is not being used on the bogs, on March 26, 2023 the corrupt Carver Earth Removal Committee issued Maki-G. Lopes Construction another permit to continue the mining indefinitely.
Like many mining operations in Southeastern Massachusetts, the companies are mining in the Sole Source Aquifer to maximize the volume of sand and gravel they can get off a piece of land. Because local zoning and Supreme Judicial Court cases say a multi-year mining operation for large amounts of sand and gravel is not “agriculture” and not allowed in a residential-agricultural district, the cranberry companies have to come up with a ruse to make it look like “cranberry agriculture.” They tell local regulators that they are building a “water hole” or reservoir to supply their cranberry bogs, or they are building a “tailwater pond” to collect polluted water that discharges off the bogs. Examples of these ruses mining in the groundwater include:
A.D. Makepeace Cranberry, Hammond Street and other locations, Carver MA
Franklin Marsh Cranberry-Gary Weston, Craig Weston, Carver-Plymouth line
EJ Pontiff Cranberry, Plymouth MA and Carver MA
North Weston Cranberry, Carver MA (Eric and Elaine Weston)
The Meadow Street-Maki Lopes site abuts residential homes and drinking water wells. The operation is harming local residents by covering their homes and property with toxic silica dust, making it so they cannot open their windows or go outside without being covered with the sand. Their houses shake from the excavation and the truck traffic.
This illegal operation is being ignored by all regulators. To stop the harmful effects and to protect themselves and drinking water, the local residents are asking the court to shut it down.
Court filings: Josephine Beadling et al. v. Bette Maki, the Lopes Companies LLC and Robert Ieronimo and others as members of the Carver Earth Removal Committee
Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Memorandum
Affidavits and Exhibits: Expert Witness Gary James, P.E., Josephine Beadling, Keith Beadling Click Here
In 2011, Maki obtained an earth removal permit under the name of a defunct cranberry company, “Alex Johnson” under the false pretense of building a 10.99 acre reservoir to irrigate 12 acres of cranberry bogs. The Earth Removal Committee (ERC) has gone along with this false pretense for a decade, using the 2011 permit as a cover to allow the illegal mining. The permit is expired and a cease and desist from September 2022 is being ignored. The ERC is window dressing and does not do its job of controlling earth removal under the Bylaw.
Like many mining operations posing as cranberry agriculture, they collect taxpayer subsidies for cranberry farming and keep their land in Chapter 61A agriculture to avoid real estate taxes. Even the former Chairman of the Carver Earth Removal Committee, John “Garry” Garretson III, runs sand mining operations under the guise of “cranberry bogs“! See the video of his strip mine operation, Slocum Gibbs Cranberry here. It appears Garretson is planning a solar project for his “cranberry” land off Wareham Street where he is running a strip mine.
The Maki-Lopes site on Meadow Street and at many other locations throughout the Town, the ERC, Board of Selectmen, Carver Police Department, Building Inspector and Board of Health have been asked repeatedly for years by local residents to stop the illegal operation, the trucks, noise, vibration and emissions of dust. Residents’ complaints and concerns are dismissed and disregarded. Trucks run after hours with no consequences. Local residents’ homes shake and vibrate due to the industrial logging, earth removal and heavy equipment. Dust emissions cover homes and cars every day.
The mining operation has created an 18 acre open pit mine. DEP has rule the 10.99 acre reservoir dug on the site is 3 times the volume of water needed for 12 acres of bogs but it has done nothing to stop it.
The ERC was required to renew the permit after the first year. It was not allowed to let Maki operate beyond 5 years without a public hearing. The permit expired in 2016 yet the ERC let the operation continue for six years, until 2022 when they issued a cease and desist that was soon violated. The trucks are speeding, exceeding the truck limit set by the permits, violating hours of operation and harming the neighborhood, home values and groundwater. The Earth Removal Committee has been sent a demand to stop this illegal operation but was ignored. Members of the committee have conflicts of interest because the majority are in the cranberry, trucking or excavation business. As of June 2023, the ERC is down to 4 members – one works for AD Makepeace Cranberry, another is part of the “Cranberry Cosa Nostra” and the other two are mere window dressing.
In early November, 2022, GAF Engineering, Lopes and Maki filed for the new earth removal permit to extend the illegal operation for another 15 months.
During the 2022 and 2023 public hearings, Chair of the ERC Robert Ieronimo refused to provide for public TV recording of the hearings and ensured that the ERC rubber stamped the 2022 permit application. Speaking about the public hearings, Mary Dormer of Carver Concerned Citizens said, “To say that we are disappointed is an understatement. I wonder what it is going to take for the ERC to do their job, which is to protect the residents of Carver. I have yet to see one board in this town do the right thing. When residents showed the ERC pictures of silica sand from the operation covering their property and described the excessive and concussive noise and vibrations they have endured for a decade, causing cracks in their home’s foundations, we were treated with disrespect and dismissed. Town officials work for the residents, not for the sand and gravel industry.”
On March 28, 2022, Ten Residents of Carver filed an appeal with the state Department of Environmental Protection challenging Maki’s claim of an exemption from the Wetlands Protection Act. On May 4, 2022, at 11 a.m. the MassDEP and Environmental Strike Force did a site visit to view the wetlands. Bette Maki refused to let the local residents on the site. The DEP ruled on July 30, 2022 that the reservoir was three times the size needed for 12 acres of bog and was not exempt agriculture but that the excavation did not harm the wetlands. All the DEP required was some erosion barriers. DEP is going along with this hoax.
December 5, 2022: A Citizens Suit Law demand letter and notice of intent to sue was delivered to the Carver Earth Removal Committee and Massachusetts Attorney General over illegal mining by landowner Bette Maki and The Lopes Companies.
March 23, 2023: Carver ERC grants Maki and Lopes a new earth removal permit to continue mining operation to dig the pond.
April 13, 2023: Local residents sue Carver ERC, Maki and Lopes in Superior Court to void the earth removal permit and for creating a nuisance, negligence and trespass.
June 26, 2023: Local residents file for injunction in Superior Court.