Granby gun club to start over on reseeding plan

  • The Granby Bow and Gun Club on Chicopee Street in Granby.

Staff Writer
Published: 6/27/2018 10:20:16 PM

GRANBY — Casella Organics, a company that deals with recycled biosolids and manufactured topsoils, has announced it had no plans to use its products on the property of the Granby Bow and Gun Club, contradicting recent statements by the club.

In a letter dated Sunday and sent to the Board of Health, Clark James, the operations director for Casella Organics, said the company had no intention of doing any work at the Granby Bow and Gun Club. Representatives of the company, a branch of Casella Waste Systems of Rutland, Vt., had met with the Board of Health and Conservation Commission multiple times within the last two years, assessed the site, and decided last summer the project was not a good fit, he said.

“Casella Organics did not pursue a project at the Granby Bow and Gun Club further, it did not apply for or seek permits from the (state Department of Environmental Protection) or the local municipality, nor did it deliver any products to the site, and has no plans to pursue this project in the future,” James said in the letter.

Some residents and abutters, concerned about the environmental effects of applying what they call “biosludge,” as well as noise from the gun range, have formed the Granby Belchertown Concerned Citizens group. Members attended Tuesday night’s Board of Health meeting where they heard the news.

“It’s a relief to hear you say Casella must have decided it’s bad publicity,” Elaine Lafleur, a leader of the citizens group, said at the meeting. “In good faith I’m hoping they all have a heart, a mind, a soul or maybe a well so that they maybe don’t want to have a partnership with the gun club.”

Gun club attorney Justin Raphaelson acknowledged that the proposal to spread 11 acres of Casella’s Biomix to revegetate a wetland area the club had filled in for its rifle range was no longer in progress.

“As far as the club knew at the time, Casella was still on board with the project, but that has since changed,” Raphaelson said Wednesday. “(The club is) exploring other options for a new environmentally friendly and safe product that will be supported by the town.”

Raphaelson said the club plans to send a letter to abutters of the club, outlining its commitment to work with neighbors to resolve any remaining issues, which include a dispute over the 1,015-yard rifle range, which the town has ordered the club not to use.

To reopen the rifle range, he said the club would have to apply for a special zoning permit that would be subject to the town’s regulations.

‘Behind the eight ball’

Board of Health member Richard Bombardier on Tuesday explained that state and federal regulations surrounding the use of artificial topsoil are vague, and in some cases a local Board of Health may not even be consulted before its application.

“We’ve been talking about this for a while, and we could easily be behind the eight ball here, so when something starts to happen it takes time to get something straightened out,” Bombardier said.

While other communities have passed regulations banning the use of these “biosolids,” the town of Granby is just now starting to ask these questions. The health board plans to investigate the matter further, and come up with a plan to address the future use of the products in Granby.

A biosolid, as defined by the MassDEP’s Residuals Management Program, is made from the dried residual sludge from wastewater treatment plants or septic tanks and treated to be used safely as a fertilizer or soil amendment. About 20 percent of wastewater sludge in Massachusetts is reused through land application, according to MassDEP, while 20 percent is sent to landfills and 60 percent is incinerated either in or out of state.

“The use of any biosolids in soil amendment or ‘manufactured soil,’ which may be marketed under a variety of names, requires a permit from MassDEP,” wrote Catherine Skiba, the service center manager for the MassDEP western regional office.

“Biomix is a proprietary name for manufactured topsoil we produce. It has a number of different compositions,” James said.

According to Skiba, MassDEP has not reviewed or issued any permits for products called Biomix or FiberClay, another of Casella’s products.

Water quality

James said he wasn’t made aware until Tuesday night that gun club president Andre Mercier cited Casella Organics in his May 10 letter to the town outlining the reseeding program, and believes the company was mentioned in error.

“After we did our investigation and looked at the viability of the project, given the type of work they were doing and the existing soils on the site, it really didn’t fit,” James said Wednesday. “We haven’t had any contact with them for maybe 12 months.”

For the citizens group, protecting water quality for future generations was a priority in its fight against the proposal.

“Our town is dependent on well water,” Colleen Lapointe, a 31-year Granby resident and member of the group, told the Board of Health.

Lafleur said that underwater aquifers in Granby feed into the Upper Lake at Mount Holyoke College.

“This has become a full-time job, on top of my full-time job,” Lafleur said of her time spent attending meetings, researching Biomix and writing to town officials.

Lafleur said the citizens group has not found the Conservation Commission responsive to its concerns, and turned to the Board of Health for help.

“I am very concerned that the way that this could go, is the Board of Health wouldn’t be told about it, they wouldn’t be asked about it,” Bombardier said. “We think it is a serious issue.”

He recommended the town take a conservative approach and restrict the use of biosolids, rather than permit them and deal with irreversible consequences later on.

“We’ve got some cooperation here, I think this is a milestone,” Lafleur said.

Sarah Robertson can be reached at

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