, Salem, MA


April 15, 2013

Letter: Protecting our drinking water supply


The updated, amended, proposed overlay district includes changes that:

delineate the watershed using the latest technology;

delineate three zones of protection, Zones A, B, and C;

add definitions to the ordinance so it can be a “stand-alone ordinance” and people who live within the watershed may get a copy to educate themselves about regulations concerning properties within the district;

designate an enforcement officer and enforcement measures to be taken when necessary;

further clarify uses that are prohibited and uses that are permitted by right and by special permit;

protect groundwater and the one remaining aquifer that is also a part of the watershed.

In January 2012 the City Council’s Committee on Legal Affairs recommended that an informal committee be created to discuss questions and opinions posed by other city agencies, including the Salem and Beverly Water Supply Board and the Airport Commission. The committee worked for more than a year to make recommendations to improve the document.

A number of joint Council/Planning Board public hearings were then held. During one of those, we hit a brick wall when Beverly’s city planner threw out over a year’s worth of work to completely change every aspect of the committee’s revised document. Subsequently, the Salem and Beverly Water Supply Board stated that it must do a study to determine if the Department of Environmental Protection is correct in its mapping of the watershed and its recommendations to protect our watershed. ... Thus the public hearing had to be postponed from November 2012 to April 2013.

Why has this process taken so long? And what is the purpose of these delays? These are serious questions that need to be answered by our city government.

Protection for our public drinking water supply is a quality-of-life issue. Our potable water supply needs protection from industrial development and potential airport expansion. We do not have enough flow from groundwater as a result of too much impervious surface that prevents water from being absorbed in the ground.

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