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Gas Station Plan Dredges Up a Property's Past

Stop & Shop wants to build a five-bay gas station at 528 Monroe Turnpike, but the property has a history of pollution that raises environmental concerns.

Attorney Stephen Studer wants to talk about the future of the 1.9-acre property at 528 Monroe Turnpike. Stop & Shop envisions a five-bay gas station with a kiosk, where supermarket customers can use their store cards for discounts on fill-ups.

Studer said the proposed gas station would serve an average of 550 to 600 cars per day.

But opponents of the plan keep dredging up the past. The land was used as a home-heating oil terminal from 1962-1988 and — despite clean up efforts — the soil is still polluted from oil spills over the years.

Though Monroe Gas LLC's experts tout state-of-the-art drainage and spill-control systems, many residents are concerned over what will happen when the ground is disturbed. Beardsley Brook runs behind the property and empties into Far Mill River on its way to Shelton Reservoir, which is owned by Aquarion Water Co.

Lois Spence, a member of the Inland Wetlands Commission, said the land's unofficial status as a brown field will be among the considerations when deciding on the wetlands permit application.

"We're waking up a sleeping dog and we have to make sure it doesn't bite," she said, using an anology to express the need to have proper safeguards in place whenever the ground is disturbed for construction.

Meanwhile, some residents living on Cross Hill Road worry that the proposed parking lot will increase the impervious surface and make neighborhood flooding problems worse.

Sheila Sportini of Cross Hill Road showed photos to the Inland Wetlands Commission during a hearing showing flooding on her property during normal rainstorms, as well as the area wildlife such as deer and a Great White Egret, which she said is a threatened species. Sportini asked commissioners to also consider any impacts on the wildlife in the wetlands.

"There's no significant harm to Beardsley Brook," Studer said.

Of the neighboring properties, the attorney also said, "Nothing proposed on our property will impact these wells."

David Sippin currently owns 528 Monroe Turnpike and Studer says Monroe Gas LLC's project will enhance the dormant property. The hearing has been continued to a later date to allow time for the applicant to do soil and wildlife testing and to obtain more information for the commission.

The Cleanup

Jamie Barr of Langan Engineering, who was hired by the applicant, said there were four underground storage tanks on the property and that a number of spills were reported in the '70s, leading to a consent order from the state for a cleanup.

In 1986, Barr said "additional contaminants" were identified and water was pumped. Then in 2004 4,000 tons of "petroleum impacted soil" was removed from the property, according to Barr.

Impacted soil near neighboring properties and close to the wetlands were left alone to avoid polluting the surrounding areas.

"There are still residual impacts," Barr said. "But we're not seeing significant impacts on the water table. It's been completed. They implemented the remedial action plan as drawn out. It is no longer an issue to the DEEP."

"How do you know that?" Commissioner Cathy Kohut asked. "What documentation do you have other than talking to someone at DEEP?"

Barr said he had nothing formal from the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, but had a report of what was done for the cleanup by Handex, the company that handled it.

Inland Wetlands Commission Chairman Jeremy Hayden asked if the applicant could get documentation from the DEEP.

"We can ask, but we were told they probably don't have it," Barr replied.

"Why are we being asked this question six times?" Studer asked.

The attorney recommended that the commission "look at what's there" and how his client's project would affect it. "There will be no impact at all on the wetlands and watercourses," Studer said.

The DEEP issue would not go away.

Of the remediation, Commissioner Dan Hunsberger asked, "Shouldn't there be a letter from them saying, 'It's done to our satisfaction?'"

"It is not subject to DEEP action or oversight," Barr said.

"We're still unclear over what was remediated and what was not," Kohut said. "What comfort do we have that you're not disturbing unremediated soils?"

Leon Ambrosey, who owns the Cross Hill Citgo on Monroe Turnpike, said he was able to get documentation on the property from the DEEP without any problems.

"I don't understand how all these people can't get this information when I can," Ambrosey said.

Studer then got up from his seat and said, "For the record, we have the same information as the other gentleman. We just interpret it differently."

Ambrosey expressed his belief that the town should do its own environmental assessment of the property. The commission later voted 6-0 to hire its own expert.

'Spills are Rare'

Americans consume 1.5 billion gallons of gas a day as 167,000 deliveries are made to gas stations using over 450 tanker trucks, according to a safety expert hired by Monroe Gas LLC. It is a heavily regulated operation throughout the entire country with very few spills, he said.

Most accidents involve a car hitting a tanker truck on the highway, along with the "occasional problem" with a hose or a car hitting one of the trucks at a slow rate of speed in a gas station parking lot, according to the expert.

Tim Onderko of Langan Engineering said that in the unlikely spill of 450 gallons that two catch basins could hold 55 gallons of gas each and that another 350 gallons could be stored in a Vortech stream.

If the entire 8,500 gallons from a tanker truck were to spill, Onderko said, "We have the ability to close that network should it happen."

James Cowan, a soil scientist with Environmental Services, said the catch basin at 528 Monroe Turnpike will be designed to degrade hydrocarbons. He said research shows that 90-97 percent of benzine and other hydrocarbons would be removed.

The catch basin would be monitored for three years to make sure it is functioning and maintenance would be done to ensure sediment is not building up, he said.

Native trees and plantings would be saved and invasive species removed and replaced by new plantings of trees, shrubs and herbs, according to Cowan.

"What we're proposing here will benefit the system," he said.

The Septic System

Onderko said Monroe Gas LLC would work with Aquarion Water Co. to extend a water main from Rite-Aid Pharmacy to its site. It is also proposing to use an existing septic system on the other side of Beardsley Brook.

Piping under the brook had never been used. The system would serve the bathroom in the kiosk, which Onderko said would only be used by the attendant.

"It's a four-to-five-times bigger septic system than we need," Onderko said. "We think we have a fully functional septic tank to use for the project."

Bernard Prushko, who owns the Shell station right next door, expressed concerns that the proposed gas pump operation at 528 Monroe Turnpike is too close to his well and leeching fields. Monroe Gas LLC has also said it would plow snow along the property line, removing it when it is over two inches.

Onderko said the appropriate separation distance between a septic tank and a well is 75 feet and that his client is proposing a distance of 125 feet.

"Ground water moves from right to left, so it will be moving from his property to ours," Onderko said.

Application Has its Supporters

Richard Leger, a town resident of over 20 years, spoke of the importance of encouraging commercial development to ease the tax burden on homeowners, adding it should not be done at the expense of the environment.

After looking at Monroe Gas LLC's plan, Leger said, "I felt confident there is no environmental risk at all with this application."

David D'Ausilio owns the Rite-Aid pharmacy property next door. He too supports the project.

D'Ausilio said he initially opposed it because of the nearby brook, but then thought about the Shell station that is already next to 528 Monroe Turnpike. He told Inland Wetlands commissioners he believes the new gas station being proposed would mitigate risks with a safe operation.

David Sippin bought the property in 2008 after a plan for retail and the associated wetlands permit had already been approved. He said there was support for that proposal, but that it was not financially feasible.

"I never would have purchased the property if I thought there were any risks," Sippin said.

Aquarion in Opposition

Aquarion Water Co. had written a letter to Monroe Conservation Commission Chairman Michael O'Reilly on March 14 to express its opposition of the gas station. Brian T. Roach, supervisor of Environmental Protection, told O'Reilly that Aquarion had met with the applicant on March 8 for an in-depth discussion of the proposal.

"The outcome of that meeting was, that while Aquarion was impressed with the applicant's presentation of modern fuel spill prevention and mitigation technologies in general and with the thorough and careful design of the proposed facility in particular, our opposition to the construction of a fueling station at this site remains unchanged," Roach wrote.

He added, "While the technology proposed may be state-of-the-art, this does not alter the fact that from a watershed protection standpoint, the site is simply not suitable for a gasoline station because of its extremely close proximity to a perennial stream that is a tributary to a public drinking water supply reservoir."

During the hearing, Sippin said, "I feel Aquarion is unfairly trying to deny my right to develop the property."

Karen Burnaska, secretary for the Monroe Conservation Commission, expressed concerns about the property's close proximity to the stream and the public drinking water supply. She added that the commission wants to go on the record suggesting an independent assessment.

Ronald Bunovsky was among the residents speaking in opposition of the application. He called for a study on the number of private wells in the area.

Christine E. April 02, 2012 at 05:53 PM
A requirement? So the town should should have control over a business' hours of operation? That seems a little over kill.
QWERTY April 02, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Might be overkill...but the number of gas stations on 111 is overkill already. I'm not privy to the potential tax revenue implications, so my position is very much open to change, but to me it seems as if the town has the advantage here...Monroe will survive without ANOTHER gas station on 111. Few are going to benefit from another gas station in town...however if the town requires the station to be open 24/7, that's certainly appealing and potentially beneficial to most citizens. The town already controls frivolous aspects like building and landscape design...are hours of operation really that intrusive?
Christine E. April 02, 2012 at 06:36 PM
I get what you're saying about not needing it. I just don't see how you can require one type of business to be 24 hours without requiring others.
Walt April 02, 2012 at 06:49 PM
I really wish there were only one gas station in town, that would ensure that we pay the highest price anywhere in the county. Do we really want to foster competition between service stations? After all, those other gas stations were there first so that gives them more rights over an interloper coming to town, doesn't it? And oh, the pollution problem! There's five gas stations currently within a half mile of the site, but THIS ONE will pollute wells, destroy property values and hurt an egret! No, I say we continue the moratorium on all new business coming to town. People here are extremely wealthy and don't even bother to look at prices of things and we need to protect the longstanding business from any interference in their gouging I mean profiting on gasoline sales.
KikiMoon April 02, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Good point, Qwerty!
Tman April 02, 2012 at 07:59 PM
if they charge more for credit cards I won't buy from them either
dolphinlover April 02, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Walt, By far I am not even close to being wealthy and I do count my pennies every day. Cindy C, I know Shell offers the discounts but like Christine stated, all the Shell's prices are about 5-8 cents more expensive to begin with. I look for the cheapest price going especially for gas, since its almost like a useless necessity . When I purchased my house my taxes were only about $2300 they are now over $5200 and I get nothing for them except overpriced teachers not teaching my kids when they need help unless it concerns CAPT and or state ordered tests to make the school look better and pickup of my recyclables. If I could sell my house I would get out of this town. I grew up here and what they offer retail wise is getting better but tax wise its getting worse. Nobody wants a big business , restaurants(such as Chili's, Olive Garden,Wal Mart,etc) yet these can bring in tax income. What is the answer?
Schap April 02, 2012 at 08:55 PM
What would you all like to see on Rt.111 or for that matter in Monroe? Everyone always states they don't want whatever a commercial broker is able to get to come to Monroe, so what do you want? maybe some suggestions to the land owners and developers of the town would help.Dave Sippin is trying to help himself and also help the town. Take a look at the property and tell Dave, what you would like to see there and what could potentially be a long term winner for both the developer and the town.Believe or not positive suggestions do help and I am sure the broker would like to know also?
Walt April 02, 2012 at 09:21 PM
A little sarcasm. You're first comment was right, nobody wants any new business coming to town and will throw any red herring they can into the argument against development. An egret. Maybe a spotted owl will make a home in the woods near there too. I've got those rats with hooves in my back yard too and my wife's car was hit TWICE by white tailed nuisances. Here is a chance to install a new state of the art gas station, not a mini mart, a filling station, to allow us to buy less expensive gas without having to leave town to do so and people are lining up in opposition. If they turn him down he should put in a Chilis or maybe a nice upscale Gentlemans Club. The parking lot would be packed and everyone in town would deny ever going there.
PlumbBob April 02, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Who cares what each station charges for gas, they have the right to set their prices and you have the right to not buy from them. By doing so perhaps it will send a message to the owner. This issue shouldn't be about the price of gasoline folks! Opening another gas station is not going to create a price war and save you all hundreds of dollars and it certainly isn't a solution to lack of commercial tax revenue. If anyone other than Sippin owned this property I wonder if this would even be under consideration? I wonder if anyone is talking about widening the road or putting in a turning lane, because we certainly don't need any more congestion on 111. And Walt, the environmental issues have been documented with this property and there is currently a lack of proof as to what was done with clean up. Shouldn't that raise concern? Prove it's clean and everyone would be more willing to accept this. Diverting the focus to the other gas stations doesn't reduce the communities concern. If the other properties are in question then let someone do soil testing there.
Walt April 02, 2012 at 09:42 PM
It's my understanding that the property was cleaned in the past. The new tanks are double walled with monitoring systems in place to detect any leak. I couldn't care less about a price war, if I get gas at other stop and shop gas stations using points earned it is cheaper than any station currently in monroe, including shells jacked up prices. I also couldn't care less if bernie sippin were the highest taxpayer in town, at least someone is trying to build something in podunk.
KikiMoon April 02, 2012 at 10:50 PM
I highly doubt anyone in Monroe is 'extremely wealthy'.
Dukes of Hazard April 03, 2012 at 02:31 AM
Anyone who thinks building a gas station will lower their taxes is brain dead. Bernie Sippin or as he is called in some circles “Boss Hog” is not the highest taxpayer in Monroe. In fact his collection of ugly strip malls didn’t even earn him a spot in the top three. A gas station the size of the one proposed will produce at most about 50K in additional tax revenue. Match 50K against the approximate 1.5 million increase we are adding to a near 80 million dollar budget and it amounts to virtually nothing. What it will do is create more traffic, pollute wells and drinking water and put more money in Bernie’s pocket. Gotta love Bernie…
Alex April 03, 2012 at 05:02 AM
"Americans consume 1.5 billion gallons of gas a day as 167,000 deliveries are made to gas stations using over 450 tanker trucks, according to a safety expert hired by Monroe Gas LLC." Is that right? I thought Americans consume 21 million barrels on average. 21 mil * 42 is not more than a billion. Anyways, if this is a Stop and Shop gas station it would be much cheaper gas if the trend is similar to Milford / Orange / Wallingford where the gas is quite discounted, especially if you shop at Stop and Shop. But if there are environmental concerns, that needs to be addressed first.
Walt April 03, 2012 at 11:14 AM
We get it, you hate bernie for whatever myriad reasons. If we can get a gas station that will be cheaper and contribute more taxes no matter what the amount I'm for it. The pollution charge is bs, there's gas stations all around the area and no one is crying about how much their old tanks may be leaking.
Frank S. April 03, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Wasn’t sippin the citizen of the year? If he’s such a good citizen than why is trying to build a gas station on top of a polluted brown field (that is actually land fill) which lies in the middle of a wet land. Citizen Bernie is going to have to grease a lot of palms to pull this one off. Based on Dukes figure of 50K in tax revenue, this gas station will save each resident of Monroe $2 and 50 cents a year. Now that’s what I call real savings. WAKE UP MORONS!!! This is ridiculous, I pay over 10K a year in property tax. In order to reduce my taxes by only 10% we would have to build over 200 gas stations the size of this one. The good news is that if Sippin and moron nation prevails, I will save enough money each year to buy myself a slice of pizza. Yummy!
Jethro April 03, 2012 at 01:24 PM
The only reason Bernie was "citizen of the year" is because he donates a ton of money to the republican town committee. I heard from several people he sets policy with Vavrek. I was told Bernie barks orders and Vavrek does as he is told. Citizen of the year - what a joke. Bernie does nothing but complain.
Life By The Green April 03, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Gas in Monroe is sold at a hefty premium over neighboring towns. I currently fill up at S&S in either Milford or Ansonia whenever I can. Moreover, if you have a brownfield situation that no one is mandated to clean up, perhaps the best answer is to excavate some of the material (to place new tanks) and cap the rest.
captrips April 03, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Forget it improving the tax base. Bottom line is S&S stations are cheaper than other stations if you have a S&S card. That said, the zone pricing could wipe out most of the savings you'd see. However, I really don't see the issue with a station there other than perhaps traffic impact.
Susan Getty April 03, 2012 at 03:43 PM
If you have a "brownfield situation" the best thing to do is clean it up by removing the contaminates or by rehabilitating the soil on site. The second best thing is not to disturb ANY of it and thereby activate contaminates already in the ground. The absolute worse thing to do is as you say "excavate some of the material" thereby opening up new channels of flow and thus allowing the remaining contaminates to more easily enter the water system. Before dismissing the potential negative environmental impact of this situation I wish people would first listen to those certified an licensed in this field or at least do some basic research. Digging up and disturbing PART of a brown field, is the stupidest thing I've heard yet.
Walt April 03, 2012 at 04:02 PM
"Lois Spence, a member of the Inland Wetlands Commission, said the land's unofficial status as a brown field will be among the considerations when deciding on the wetlands permit application." Exactly what does "unofficial brownfield" mean. Is it or isn't it?
swollen head man April 03, 2012 at 04:04 PM
i hardly agree...
swollen head man April 03, 2012 at 04:04 PM
...i hardly agree
PlumbBob April 03, 2012 at 04:20 PM
I would have to believe the traffic impact would be quite substantial in that area. Ever get caught in a line of cars when people are trying to cross lanes to enter the Sunoco station? How many times have you sat there unable to move only to watch the traffic light in front of McDonalds change? It happens to me almost daily. They suggest the proposed facility would serve over 500 cars per day. Imagine what that would be like when people are trying to cross lanes and there is traffic at the light by Big Y. I can see traffic flow being halted and even backed up into the entrance to the plaza. In past weeks Vavrek was openly supported and implied a traffic circle would help reduce accidents just up the road at the 111/110 intersection, I hope that same concern goes into the traffic situation 550-600 turning vehicles per day would create at the proposed location. And geez, didn't I hear something about the P&Z board wanting to keep Monroe all "country like" in appearance? Yup, a new super station is just the thing to accomplish that goal.
Sara April 03, 2012 at 06:13 PM
There's a Shell gas station on rt25 - people who want to use their Stop & Shop gas rewards can use it there.
Life By The Green April 03, 2012 at 08:36 PM
I guess we can accept you as a certified expert then. Thanks for offering your expert testimony.
Great2ndWife April 04, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Lets try to stay on focused shall we? The issue in front of the commission is not the other gas stations--it is a NEW gas station. The proposed site of the NEW station has a long and un-documented history (as of this reply) which needs to be resolved through research and testing.
Great2ndWife April 04, 2012 at 12:26 AM
That Egret really ruffled your feathers!
Great2ndWife April 04, 2012 at 01:57 AM
That is the multi-million dollar question!!! What are the chemicals?? What levels are they at? What impact could they have on our wetlands, environment and drinking water??? Answers to these questions and many more will be through testing, research, expert testimony, independent analysis, etc. will tell us the condition of the soil and what if any remediation needs to be done, what risks there are in remediation of these chemicals, and if remediation has a chance of success. Exactly what the commission asked for to determine the status of the land--"unofficial brownfield" could mean we need to investigate and get answers to important environmental issues prior to development in order to protect our wetlands, drinking water, wells, environment and yes even our Egrets and your beloved "hooved rats"
Bill Ehlers April 16, 2012 at 02:56 PM
How can the Town ignore our water supplier's objections? Why should the Town incurr any expense and implement a study? Doesn't the Applicant have the reponsblity to prove his case, follow prescribed procedures and submit required certifiication? STOP BEING SMALL TOWN, BE PROFESSIONAL AND DO IT RIGHT! Bill E

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