Community members rally against sand mining

Jul 23, 2023

On Saturday, July 22, the Community Land and Water Coalition gathered outside of the Wareham Town Hall in opposition of sand mining, the extraction of sand from the earth, in Southeastern Massachusetts.

The Community Land and Water Coalition is a “statewide network of groups and individuals taking action to protect … land and water,” according to its website.

Meg Sheehan, the coordinator for the coalition, said the goal is to stop sand mining in Plymouth County and to obtain a moratorium.

A moratorium would temporarily prohibit sand mining within the area it is issued.

Sheehan said sand mining “is destroying our forests, biodiversity and threatening the drinking aquifer by permanently removing the filtration protection.”

The Plymouth Carver Sole Source Aquifer serves a 199 square-mile area and six communities: Plymouth, Carver, most of Wareham as well as parts of Bourne, Plympton and Kingston, according to the town of Kingston website.

“The more sand pulled out, the more at risk the aquifer is,” said Wendy O’Brian, who attended the rally. “It’s a problem for everyone.”

Sheehan said the short-term objective of the Community Land and Water Coalition is to have the town of Wareham enforce the bylaws that were introduced in 1990. Earth removal regulations under Division 4, Article 3 require that earth removal activities shall be conducted with “minimal detrimental effect upon environment of the district in which the activities are located.”

The bylaws state that for all earth removal operations, a written permit must be obtained by the Select Board, site plans must be filed and the permit is subject to a fee of $0.25 per cubic yard, payable to the town of Wareham.

The coalition is accusing the town of Wareham of not enforcing this bylaw, causing sand mining to be largely unregulated. They sent a demand letter and a notice of intent to sue in November of 2022, Sheehan said.

Private citizens have the right to sue to enforce a statute under the Clean Water Act, which authorizes any person affected to commence a civil action to enforce requirements under the Act, according to the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations.

At the April 24 Town Meeting, residents voted to appropriate $50,000 to hire an engineer to investigate the possibly illegal removal of earth by corporations around town.

The Community Land and Water Coalition claims that local cranberry company, A.D. Makepeace, is the largest aggregate mining operation on the East Coast.

The Wareham Select Board and A.D. Makepeace could not be reached for comment.