LOWELL -- The Lowell Regional Water Utility is scheduled to go before the Conservation Commission on Wednesday night to request approval to temporarily store a byproduct of the water treatment process behind its distribution garage.
Water Utility Executive Director Dan Lahiff said the non-hazardous material the Utility wants to store behind the garage at 831 Pawtucket Boulevard would be removed from one of the Utility's handling lagoons across the boulevard from the treatment plant.
The Sun observed three city employees clearing the area behind the garage with front loaders on Monday morning.
On Monday afternoon, The Sun inquired whether the Water Utility sought the Conservation Commission's approval before beginning the work.
The clearing work and planned removal of water treatment byproduct from the handling lagoons comes less than a week after a state Department of Environmental Protection site visit to the Water Utility, which took place last Wednesday.
Joe Ferson, a spokesman for DEP, said on Tuesday afternoon he had nothing he could release at this time about the DEP site inspection in Lowell.
"The ground preparation that has been done so far on the site is outside of the flood plain, and therefore not within the jurisdiction of the Conservation Commission," said Eric Slagle, the city's director of Development Services.
"However, we did advise the LRWU not to proceed any further with the project until after the Commission has had a chance to review it at (Wednesday's) meeting."
Lahiff said in a statement that water treatment residual materials that will be stored behind the garage will ultimately be removed and disposed of off site. The material in the residual lagoons is "alum sludge," which is a byproduct from the treatment plant's settling basins.
"The LRWU will ensure that no runoff from the operation flows off of the site," Lahiff said. 'No filling will be performed, therefore compensatory storage within the 100-year flood plain will not be impacted. There is no existing underground infrastructure, drainage or otherwise, in this particular location that will be impacted."
The area being cleared has been used for the storage of pipe, stone and other construction materials, said Lahiff.
Lahiff said he does not think the work will trigger any wetlands permitting and that the clearing work will disturb less than 20,000 square feet of city property. A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency general permit will also not be required, said Lahiff.
The work is part of a $22.8 million loan order the City Council approved last year, according to Lahiff.
The Conservation Commission meeting is Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. in the Mayor's reception room.
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