Wareham: While Ten Residents’ Group heads to court over sand mining in Wareham Selectboard asks for $50,000 at Town Meeting on 4/24/23 to investigate AD Makepeace and others

  Katherine Harrelson 

Wareham voted on 4/24/2023 to hire an engineer to investigate the possibly illegal removal of earth around town by corporations.

Ten Residents Group sends Notice of Intent to Sue Letter claiming illegal mining in Wareham MA by AD Makepeace Cranberry Co., Borrego Solar

Government regulators Attorney General Campbell, Wareham Selectboard asked to enforce law to assess damage to environment, collect as much as $625,000 in fees owned by Makepeace to Town

Group can sue in 21 days if government regulators don’t respond

On March 17, 2023, a Ten Residents Group involved the Massachusetts Citizen Suit Law, Chapter 214, 7A to seek remedies for Damage to the Environment caused or about to be caused by AD Makepeace Co. and Borrego Solar resulting from sand and gravel mining without permits.

The Citizen Suit Law gives a group of ten residents the right to sue to prevent and remedy actual or probable Damage to the Environment when government regulators refuse to act.

The March 17, 2023 Notice of Intent to Sue letter identifies three industrial mining sites in Wareham where AD Makepeace conducted earth removal without permits. The company claimed this was “agricultural excavation” and did not require a permit. The Notice letter claims otherwise: it reviews the law and says Makepeace was not exempt from the requirement to obtain a permit from the Wareham Selectboard under the Town’s Earth Removal Bylaw. The Bylaw imposes a fee of .25 cents per cubic yard. According to the Notice, Makepeace owes Wareham as much as $625,000.

The industrial mining operations damage historic resources including cultural sites and sovereign lands of Indigenous people. According to [ ] of [insert quote]

For over 2 years, residents and advocates have been urging the Wareham Board of Selectmen and state regulators to address Makepeace’s illegal earth removal. The Town confirmed in 2021 that Makepeace never obtained an earth removal permit from the Town. Eyewitness, testimonials and aerial photographs show the earth removal in detail including excavators, trucks, piles of sand ready being processed and ready to be shipped off site. Makepeace represented this industrial mining as “agriculture” in permit applications to state and local regulators.

In 2022, Wareham voters unanimously passed a resolution at Town Meeting urging the Selectboard to audit Makepeace’s earth removal and to determine fees owed and impacts to the drinking water aquifer and the environment. Citing no apparent progress by the town, the Group took action to enforce the law.

The Notice letter identifies these illegal mining sites on Makepeace land.

160 Tihonet Road, is now a Borrego Solar site,

Charlotte Furnace Road, now a REDP/AD Makepeace solar site, and

Farm to Market Road, now a Borrego Solar site.

AD Makepeace still owns the land, profited from the sand and gravel sales, and is leasing the land for solar for about 20 years.

Makepeace has three additional large ground mounted solar projects proposed for Wareham at 140 Tihonet Road, 150 Tihonet Road and 27 Charge Pond Road. This will bring the total acres of forested land cleared for large solar by AD Makepeace, Borrego and REDP to at least 330 acres. Makepeace has also clearcut forests for solar in Carver and possibly Plymouth and Middleboro.

Groups are urging the Wareham Planning Board to deny requests by Makepeace and Borrego Solar (now New Leaf) for permit extensions for the sites at 150 Tihonet Road and 27 Charge Pond Road. The Planning Board is expected to vote at its meeting on February 27, 2023.

The state’s Department of Energy Resources (DOER) is conducting a study that is expected to identify the best sites for large solar energy systems. Massachusetts has lost about 6,000 acres of open space and forests to large solar in the last decade according to MassAudubon. Community members hope the new study will ensure that more forests are not clear-cut for large solar.

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