Consultants Give Bus Depot Green Light

An environmental impact study of a proposed East Hampton School District bus depot on a Springs-Fireplace Road parcel owned by the town, which the district hopes to buy, was neutral on the issues it examined, with the firm that conducted the study recommending that it move forward with the plan. 

The sale of the property has yet to be finalized, the town having chosen to wait until the environmental report, required by the State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQRA, was published. The property is a former scavenger waste facility along a mostly-industrial stretch of road. 

During an East Hampton School Board meeting at the high school last week, David M. Wortman, a senior environmental manager at V.H.B., the engineering and planning company that conducted the study, presented its conclusions. They include a modest increase in traffic during peak hours, increased electricity and fuel demands since the lot is vacant now, a potential risk to human health as hazardous wastes had been disposed of there from 1967 to 1987 (although no residual environmental problems have been identified), and no significant adverse impact to groundwater. 

The study was conducted in collaboration with several state and local agencies, including the East Hampton Town Board and Highway Department, the Suffolk County Water Authority and Department of Health Services, and the State Department of Environmental Conservation, among others.

A similar study had been made of the controversial Cedar Street property initially earmarked for the bus depot. Despite the fact that the study, presented in April, had concluded “no significant adverse environmental impact” would result, outraged residents of the Cedar Street area rallied and eventually forced the district to look elsewhere.

The Springs-Fireplace Road site is approximately 2.95 acres. The waste center there closed its sewage treatment and disposal operations in 2012, after which it served as a transfer station until the facility closed permanently in December 2014. The V.H.B. report noted that the property has a “vacant one-story building (formerly used as a sludge drying bed), asphalt-paved driveways, grassy and wooded areas, and perimeter fencing.”

The school district proposes to replace the current building with one containing bus maintenance bays, an office, employee support spaces, and an area to be used for vocational training for students. A parking area would accommodate 25 full-size buses, 10 small buses, vans, and up to 40 employee vehicles. Access would be provided via a one-way entry driveway from Springs-Fireplace Road at the north end of the site. 

In addition to the conclusions listed above, Mr. Wortman cautioned that any demolition of an old building had the potential for the presence of asbestos. He also pointed out that groundwater samples showed elevated levels of sodium and iron, “because of ongoing Highway Department use.” As a result, his company recommended avoiding the use of the site’s groundwater.

As for the increase in traffic, Mr. Wortman said steady population growth in East Hampton means that the traffic routes between Springs-Fireplace Road and East Hampton’s schools would “eventually be impacted whether we build or not.” To allay concerns about possible hazardous materials underground, Mr. Wortman recommended that a geophysical survey of the property be carried out.

J.P. Foster, the school board’s president, said the district would “leave no stone unturned.” He recommended that board members study the report carefully before posing questions or concerns to Mr. Wortman at the next board meeting on Tuesday.

The full report is available on the district’s website, easthamptonschools.org