City halts sand pit operation


A stop work order was posted by the city at a controversial sand extraction project on the island’s south end.

The developer in charge of the project will likely have to refill the holes, clear the piles and replant the 4-acre area.

Read my story below.

City Halts Extraction of Sand From Bainbridge Pit

By Tristan Baurick

Spurred by residents complaints, the city halted work at a sand pit that had grown beyond its permissible boundaries.

Permitted for a 2.9-acre excavation project by the island-based Nelson Wood and Glass company, the triangle-shaped dig site at the intersection of Fletcher Bay and Lynwood Center roads actually encompasses about 4 acres, according to the city. A stop work order was issued Friday afternoon, following site visits by city and state officials.

“The site will have to be restored,” said City Administrator Mark Dombroski. “They can’t leave the holes or the piles.”

Located over an aquifer serving about 20 wells, the project could impact the quality and quantity of water for numerous homes and a nearby school.

“This could affect the drinking water of 300, maybe 500 people,” said hydrologist Malcolm Gander, who joined other islanders in protesting the excavation.

Digging to a depth of about 15 feet, developer Bill Nelson extracted approximately 20,000 cubic yards of sandy soil for use at the Blossom Hill commercial and residential development taking shape at Lynwood Center. An equal amount of clay-like soil from the Blossom Hill site was to be used for filling holes at the sand pit.

Nelson and the sand pit’s owner, Bill Moore, stressed that the excavation followed proper channels to earn city approval. Nelson also contends that the city’s recent site assessment includes land affected by other digs over the last 50 years.

“We’ve been working with the city, but they’ve been getting a lot of pressure from a small group of people,” he said. “I think this is partly political. Anything you do on Bainbridge falls under the watch of a minority group that don’t always know the issues.”

It was residents’ complaints that impelled Dombroski to visit the site and request assurances from Nelson that the affected area did not exceed 3 acres. Nelson did not provide adequate information about the project’s size and depth, Dombroski said.

Island hydrologist Doug Dow said the sand pit’s growth beyond 3 acres has drawn the attention of state regulators.

“Normally, the Department of Natural Resources requires that you have monitoring wells for projects over 3 acres,” he said, adding that excavations over 3 acres are considered mines by the state. But (Nelson) skirted around all that.”

At its specified 2.9 acres filed with the city, the project avoided the need for a water-quality testing program and oversight by DNR.

Dow, who works for a groundwater consulting firm and has done hydrology work for the city, said local officials should have taken a more critical look at the project.

“It surprised me that the city didn’t require more because of the (aquifer) recharge area that’s there,” he said.

Dow said the area’s sandy soil allows rainwater to quickly refill the aquifer’s reserves. Swapping the sand for clay soil could slow the downward trickle, allow surface water to evaporate and potentially cause runoff to other areas.

Gander is concerned that the project could allow heavy metals to contaminate groundwater. He also wants imported soil from Blossom Hill to undergo testing for potential septic system contamination.

“Maybe the soil is fine, maybe its not,” he said. But it should be considered because of the potential impact on water quality.”

The city is awaiting a report from DNR proscribing potential remediation of the site, which could include replacing soils and replanting the area.

4 thoughts on “City halts sand pit operation

  1. Wow, I thought this was a good story. It was off site by 6pm. I guess it wasn’t tabloid enough.

    thanks for adding it to the bainbridge conversation.

  2. wow, I see why ksun pulled the story! those are some nasty, personal attacks. Come on people, lets be rational. Let justice be served, we don’t need to defame a member of our small community.

  3. You wrote:

    “The developer in charge of the project will likely have to refill the holes, clear the piles and replant the 4-acre area.”

    WELL, OF COURSE THEY WILL. The actions you write about as if they are punishment for a sneak attack on “the environment” are required for almost any land-disturbing activity, and were likely already required by the permits for this one.

    Try knowing your subject even a little or inquiring a little more deeply before you grab your keyboard. Your editors should know better than to allow fact-challenged reporting like this. Blogs seem to be good places for people who can’t seem to get journalism done right.

Comments are closed.