Town Meeting votes to hire engineer to probe earth removal

Apr 24, 2023

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

The earth is valuable for agricultural purposes, as well as for industrial purposes. Those who remove Wareham’s earth for non-agricultural purposes must obtain a permit the town 25 cents per cubic yard removed. 

Citizens and environmental activists have accused companies of not paying for earth removal, and claiming that the removed earth was used for agriculture when it wasn’t.

A.D. Makepeace plans to remove 1.3 million cubic yards of earth from its property at 140 Tihonet Road to make way for a Borrego solar field. The company claimed that the earth, worth an estimated $18 million, will be put into its cranberry bogs. At the time, it was not made clear whether these bogs were in Wareham or elsewhere.

The Read Custom Soils company, which provides soil to golf courses, sports fields and gardens, is a division of Makepeace.

The Conservation Commission and the Planning Board approved the solar field in 2021, with the latter saying that the earth removal question was up to the Select Board to figure out.

A citizens’ petition calling on the Select Board to measure the amount of earth removed, and calculate how much the town is owed in fees, was overwhelmingly passed at Town Meeting in Fall 2021

In January 2022, the Select Board voted 4-1 “to direct the town to find funds to hire an engineering firm to analyze areas where unauthorized earth removal operations are suspected.”

This would be done by taking aerial photos of the landscape and using topographic maps to determine how much earth has been removed. 

According to then-Select Board member Jim Munise, Town Administrator Derek Sullivan found an engineer to do the investigation, but did not hire them.