Becket resident claims Buckley Dunton Pond 'sterilized' in 'eco crime'

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BECKET -- A Stockbridge attorney is petitioning the town Conservation Commission to symbolically revoke a decision that led to what his client calls an "ecological crime" at Buckley Dunton Pond.

Two herbicide applications this July in a cove at the pond "sterilized" life there, said Carl Rosenstein, who owns a home on the 161-acre pond.

"All forms of life appear to have been killed off," Rosenstein told The Eagle.

The attorney he retained, Mark Siegars, claims the treatments violated the Wetlands Protection Act, the Clean Water Act, state hazardous waste regulations and even the order of conditions granted by the commission.

The town's Conservation Commission on June 23 gave its blessing to treat the 8-acre cove in order to manage native aquatic plants bladderwort and floating leaf water shield, which residents said choked the area and made boating and other recreational activities difficult.

A contractor hired by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation Lakes and Ponds Program, applied Diquat and fluorodine to the lake on July 2.

But Siegars contends the contractor, Sutton-based Aquatic Control Technology, applied the chemicals before the mandatory 10-day appeal period had ended.

The second treatment occurred on July 31, while more than a dozen opponents scrambled in an unsuccessful attempt to obtain a court order blocking further applications.

Siegars' petition claims the applications occurred "in an apparent rush to avoid all forms of public participation, except the receipt of money from [Blatt] asking the DCR to do this illegal chemical application" and the Commission failed to "follow the minimal standards established by the Commonwealth" in its approval.

In another point of contention, four of the 12 abutters -- including Rosenstein -- who should have been notified prior to any herbicide application received no such notice, Siegars contended.

"Why did they exclude those four? Well, because Carl was one of them. I don't think it's a great leap of faith to say this, because [Rosenstein, a longtime environmentalist] would have immediately moved to stop it. It speaks to some intent," Siegars told The Eagle.

Neither was notice posted around the pond itself, he said, and people reportedly took their dogs swimming in the pond immediately after the chemical treatments.

Siegars sent his petition to a number of state agencies as well, including the Attorney General's Office.

While the summer's treatments already have taken place, the petition acknowledged, but "the Becket Conservation Commission can prevent it from happening again by revoking the Order of Conditions it issued to [DCR on June 23]," the petition goes on to say.

A commission member who spoke to The Eagle on the condition of anonymity said such a revocation is highly unlikely.

The commission on May 15 initially sought the treatment under the Wetlands Protection Act on the grounds of the grounds of "safe recreational use," but the DCR shot down that justification.

Excessive plant growth as a result of phosphates and other chemicals present in the waters, or eutrophication, eventually became the justification -- but opponents and commission members differ on whether DCR made an adequate case or presented sufficient information.

"It appears that the Department of Conservation and Recreation intentionally dumped chemicals into [the pond] without any legal authorization whatsoever," Siegars' petition reads.

Siegars and Rosenstein allege that the treatments were done at the behest of four wealthy abutters, including Lee N. Blatt, who acknowledged in public meetings that he paid DCR $15,000 to see them through.

In 2000, 2001 and 2008, the species were cut back mechanically with some success, but this method is more expensive and time consuming, advocates of the treatments have pointed out.

DEP representative Catherine Skiba confirmed an in-house investigation into the matter in an Eagle interview.

"We are aware of the concerns that have been voiced and are looking into it," Skiba said. "However, the permit was issued by the local Conservation Commission and it's primarily a [local] issue."

Rosenstein has also brought local lawmakers state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, and state Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittfield, into the fray.

"They're doing their jobs," Rosenstein said. "They were very concerned by the apparent conflict on interest between Aquatic Control and DCR."

To reach Phil Demers:
pdemers@berkshireeagle.com
or (413) 281-2859.
On Twitter: @BE_PhilD


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