FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 24, 2023
Contact: Meg Sheehan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Community Land and Water Coalition Holds Rally in Wareham To Stop Sand Mining in Southeastern Massachusetts
Groups and residents demand enforcement of the laws to protect land, water, residents, Indigenous history
A.D. Makepeace Cranberry Co. sand and gravel mining to supply its Read Custom Soils facility is illegal says group
Read coverage from the Wareham Week HERE
(Wareham, MA) – Local residents and regional environmental organizations gathered in front of Wareham Town Hall to demand action by state and local local officials to stop the sand and gravel strip mining operations going on across Southeastern Massachusetts and to end the public subsidies supporting the industry, including agricultural subsidies from the Department of Agricultural Resources and solar subsidies from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.
The rally organizers chose Wareham Town Hall because the Town’s Selectboard refuses to enforce the Town’s laws against sand mining despite years of demands and two Town Meeting votes asking them to do so.
Wareham is also the corporate headquarters of A.D. Makepeace Cranberry Co. (“Makepeace”), owner and operator of reportedly the Northeast’s largest sand and gravel extraction and sales and distribution center, Read Custom Soils, LLC located in the Town abutting Wareham, at 46 Federal Road in Carver. Makepeace is the world’s largest cranberry grower and Massachusetts’ largest private landowner with about 13,450 acres of land including the Red Brook Development in Plymouth. Every acre is a source of sand and gravel for Read Custom Soils, yet the company’s website claims it is “Inspired by Nature.” The company has plans to mine out retired bogs under the claim of building agricultural ponds at locations in Plymouth. The company’s CEO and President admits under oath that Makepeace the so-called cranberry company is wholly dependent on sand and gravel revenues.
Recent satellite images and photographs released by rally organizer Community Land & Water Coalition show Makepeace’s industrial scale logging off Tihonet Road near the company’s Wareham headquarters heading toward Plymouth. This area is a corridor of over 400 acres of the last remaining pristine forested Pine Barrens forest stretching from the iconic, biodiversity hotspot at Frogfoot Brook in Plymouth and flowing down the Wankinko River to Buzzards Bay. A popular hiking trail, The Big Ramble, meanders through the area. Makepeace has started strip mining and logging along Frogfoot Brook for a 217-acre “Farm of the Future” that the group calls the “Farce of the Future” and plans to continue through Wareham to Charge Pond Road. See the Drone Footage of mining along Frogfoot Brook here.
Makepeace has a deal with New Leaf Energy (formerly Borrego Solar) for industrial ground mounted solar projects and sand mining involving 200 acres in Wareham. Permits for the solar projects are stalled by legal and local regulatory challenges. Makepeace’s CEO and President describes the company’s development plans clearly: log, strip mine, lease for solar, then when the solar company takes out its “junk” build subdivision roads. At the same time, Makepeace and its consultant Beals+Thomas promotes the industrial solar projects involving strip mining and deforestation as having fewer long term impacts than residential development.
In November 2022, a Ten Residents Group issued a Notice of Intent to Sue theTown of Wareham, Makepeace and Read Custom Soils under the state’s Citizen Suit Law to stop Makepeace’s destructive mining operations and for payment of over $600,000 in fees never paid by Makepeace for historic unpermitted mining operations. Despite a nearly unanimous Town Meeting vote in 2022 to audit Makepeace’s sand removal and a vote in April 2023 to allocate the money to do so, the Town of Wareham has done nothing.
The Town of Carver Earth Removal Committee that issues permits for sand and gravel mining to cranberry companies under the ruse of “agriculture” is under investigation by the Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General for fraud. Several mining companies and local officials are also under investigation. Carver’s Earth Removal Committee chair recently quit, following the sudden resignation of other members including the long-time chair, John Garretson III of Slocum Gibbs Cranberry, who is a business associate of Makepeace.
In 2019, the Carver Earth Removal Committee issued Makepeace a permit to extract about $ 8 million worth of sand and gravel under the pretense of creating a water supply pond for cranberry bogs at one of the company’s many “agricultural” mining sites around the region. The 27-acre “agricultural” pond on Hammond Street has never been shown to be legitimate cranberry agricultural and has obliterated pristine upland Interior Forests listed on the state’s natural resource inventory. New drone video from July 21, 2023 shows the vast expanse of Makepeace’s destruction at this site. In 2021, Makepeace’s CEO and President told the Carver Zoning Board of Appeals that even though the company has been mining the 150 acres around this area for over a decade, the cranberry bogs not yet built but are”ongoing.”
At its annual Town Meeting in April, 2023, Carver Concerned Citizens petitioned for a moratorium on sand and gravel mining. Fierce opposition from the cranberry industry revealed that the true lifeblood of the largest Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association members like Makepeace is sand and gravel mining, not real cranberry farming in almost every instance.
CLWC announced a new initiative, Sand Wars: Southeastern Massachusetts, and a report that will identify least 70 active and historic mines in the region. Local laws prohibit stand alone commercial mines. All mining must obtain a local permit and qualify as “necessary and incidental” to an agricultural use of the land or a subdivision. According to CLWC, cranberry companies like Makepeace and local towns are allowing these mining operations to be cloaked as “agriculture” or conducted as “site preparation” for large solar projects in order to get permits.
Over 55 million cubic yards have been extracted – enough to fill 2.3 million tractor trailer trucks that would circumnavigate the globe 1.3 times. Corruption at the local level is at the core of this destruction according to some.
SLT Construction’s 20 acre site in Carver leveled the Town’s highest hill and is contaminating a Great Pond with windblown sand. In Plymouth, the Zoning Board of Appeals allowed a massive mining operation by G.Lopes Construction and local developer Scott Spencer at 10 Collins Avenue visible from Route 3 South to proceed and continue despite documented violations. New drone video on July 21, 2023 shows an Olympic sized swimming pool on the 10 Collins Avenue, Plymouth mining site raising questions about whether the operation is mining in the Aquifer.
Sand is the second most extracted commodity on Earth after water. It is used in concrete, glass and many industrial and commercial applications.The world is running out of sand, and over the last five years, the scarcity of this natural resource has caused the price of sand to increase, making the sand and gravel deposits in Southeastern Massachusetts extremely profitable to sell. Thousands of trucks leave the area weekly, permanently taking away trees, soil, silica sand and aggregate materials and with them the region’s cultural and environmental heritage. The region has already lost over 55 million cubic yards of sand and gravel that protected its drinking water and untold millions of trees according to the Coalition.
The mining is happening in the globally rare Atlantic Coastal Pine Barrens a global biodiversity hotspot and the Plymouth Carver Sole Source Aquifer, the only drinking water supply for 200,000 people and seven area towns.
“Nothing is having a bigger impact on the future of our region than the corrupt and unregulated sand and gravel mining robbing the filtration and protection for our drinking water. The United Nations calls sand mining “a silent environmental crisis.” It is happening right here, in America’s Hometown where the Wampanoag people welcomed the Pilgrims and lived for millenia in harmony with the land. Residents of the region are asking our state leaders for assistance so that we can ensure a livable planet for future generations.”
Melissa Harding Ferretti of the Herring Pond Wampanoag Tribe said in a statement, “We have called this land home for thousands of years. — Our ancestors are buried here — and our descendants can still be found here today – – along with the many other tribal communities and direct descendants of other Tribes throughout the Commonwealth.” A video explains the impact of sand and gravel mining on Indigenous Native American sites and culture in Southeastern Massachusetts.
Linda Coombs of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head said in a statement referring to land clearing and sand mining for solar, “In more than 400 years now, we are on the brink of complete destruction. We are not following natural law. If we have to go the extremes of erecting solar farms, wind farms, which make the beautiful world ugly, then we are doing something wrong. Solar farms cannot do for the climate what the trees can do – what the trees removed to install them can do. It simply will not work.”
Local residents living next to the mines are “prisoners in our own homes” due to emissions of silica sand that covers their homes and properties. “We cannot open our windows when we want to due the sand blowing off these open pit mines, the truck traffic a few feet from our front doors, the incessant sand and gravel processing on the site, and vibrations that shake the ground beneath our feet”, said Jo Beadling a resident of Meadow Street in Carver MA abutting the mining site operated by a defunct cranberry company and Bette J. Maki and G.Lopes Construction.
After a decade of trying to get the Carver Earth Removal Committee to stop the violations and being told to “Go Pound Sand” according to a news report, Beadling and her husband sued the Town and the companies in April, 2023. On July 21, 2023, a Superior Court judge denied the Beadlings’ request for an injunction, saying they had not met the legal standard of showing “irreparable harm” for an injunction and that the Carver Earth Removal Bylaw allows mining on land zoned residential-agricultural without showing that the use is actually agriculture. “This decision is legally and factually flawed and we will be appealing,” said volunteer lawyer Meg Sheehan, representing the Beadlings. “The towns, the state and the courts all side with the cranberry industry that claims this is just cranberry farming. It is anything but. These companies exploit the myth of the quaint New England cranberry farmer to cover up what is a criminal racketeering enterprise exploiting our sand deposits and our communities.”
“The cranberry industry has been in a death spiral for 20 years: consumers are rejecting their sugar-laden products. Ocean Spray cranberry juice has more sugar than a cola or Red Bull drink and “Craisins” are like putting sugary Mike and Ike’s candy on your salad. We are dealing with what is known as the “sand mafia” according to Forbes Magazine – not cranberry farmers. It’s time for local and state officials, politicians and judges to wake up and face the facts,” said Sheehan.
“Over the last 150 years, the cranberry industry has drained and diked over 10,000 acres in the region for bogs, and leveled hills to do so. The market for cranberries is dead, the state is spending millions on restoring old bogs to wetlands such as Tidmarsh Farm– yet the Mass Dept of Agricultural Resources is giving cranberry bog grants to some of the region’s biggest strip miners. Even Tidmarsh Farm’s bogs were created by a massive strip mining operation of up to 500,000 cubic yards under an “agriculture” permit from Plymouth to create a few acres of bogs” Sheehan added.
“Enough is enough,” said Jo Beadling of Carver. Her neighbor Judy Pratt echoed her statements holding a sign outside Town Hall on Saturday saying, “ WE DON’T DIG ILLEGAL SAND MINING.” Pratt, a nurse who works a night shift says she can’t sleep or rest during the day due to the relentless noise and vibration from the nearby sand and gravel mining operation and the truck traffic past her home.