Salting walkways and pavement is common around these parts during the harsh winter months, but it’s raising concerns among some Epping officials as they debate the use of salt for a proposed industrial project near the town’s aquifer.
The topic of salt dominated a planning board hearing Thursday night as representatives from Route 125/101 Investments sought conditional approval for a plan to construct a 100,000-square-foot industrial building to be used for warehousing and light manufacturing.
The project is planned for commercial property behind Lowe’s and Walmart just off of routes 125 and 101.
The concern is its close proximity to the aquifer and the 75 acres of land that the town purchased for $2.3 million in 2014 because existing wells on the property boosted the municipal water supply.
Planning board Chairman Joseph Foley said water and sewer officials had asked that the development be “salt-free” and that only sand be used because of the nearby aquifer.
Board member Susan McGeough shared the concern and told project officials to “stock up on sand.”
Rob Graham, a real estate consultant for the developer, told McGeough that “sand doesn’t melt ice.”
“I know that,” she replied, “but if you’ve got enough on it you’re not going to slip, and the bottom line is the town spent all that money buying that property for the water source and it doesn’t make sense to me to be putting down salt.”
Graham acknowledged the concerns about the use of salt around the state and said it’s an issue that needs to be addressed, but he pointed out the liability risks associated with “slip and falls.”
“Salt is an operating cost. We don’t want to put it down. Nobody wants to put it down. Something’s got to be done with it. I think towns really do need to engage with the state about tort reform on it, but we can’t insure a building without being able to deal with ice,” he said.
Joseph Coronati, senior project manager with Jones and Beach Engineers in Stratham, noted that the wells are about 1,700 feet from the proposed building.
The wells were also about 1,700 feet from Route 101 and 1,900 feet from Route 27.
“Having a quarter-mile radius around your wells is exceptional and almost unheard of. Most of these wells are lucky to have 400 feet,” he said.
The planning board supported the idea of requiring the developer to use only crews that have Green SnowPro certification through the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. The certification involves training commercial salt applicators in salt reduction practices.
Some planning board members agreed that while road salt is a concern, prohibiting the developer from using it wasn't a feasible option.
"I think we're a little bit late on telling anybody that they can't use salt out there now. We've already put all these other buildings out there and they all run into the same catch basin. It all goes there anyways so what little bit of salt they use on there is not going to make a difference between Lowe's and everything else that they're doing. I think we're a day late and a dollar short trying to make them not do that. That's my opinion," said board member Dave Reinhold, who is also the town's road agent.
The board plans to gather input from the town's water and sewer officials and revisit the salt issue at a meeting on March. 11.