With the help of an expert, residents fighting a gas station proposed for Diamond Hill Road raised the specter of polluted drinking water before the Zoning Board of Review.
Hydrogeologist Herb Johnston, a Cumberland resident, told the board that no matter where the water underneath the station flows, it will enter a reservoir that Pawtucket, Cumberland, and Central Falls residents use for drinking water.
Johnston had testified last month that, if underground gasoline tanks sprang a leak, the pollutants would be washed east from the gas station into Long Brook, which empties into Arnold Mills Reservoir, one of two major reservoirs that serve the Pawtucket Water Supply Board system.
Last night, Johnston revised his testimony, having studied a map provided by the developer seeking to build the gas station.
It's still true, Johnston said, that any gasoline leak would pollute Arnold Mills Reservoir. But some contaminants would also make their way west to Millers River and eventually to Robin Hollow Pond, just upstream of where surrounding communities draw their water, he said.
Attorney Michael Kelly, representing the developer, said it was "highly improper" for Johnston to be allowed to change his opinion. He asked for the right to cross-examine Johnston at the next Zoning Board meeting on the issue.
Late last night, the meeting was still in full swing, with more than 30 people filling seats in the Council Chambers in Town Hall.
One of them was Allen Champagne, source water manager for the Pawtucket Water Supply Board.
"I'm concerned about a major spill," he said. "The gas station is a hazard in itself."
Last night's arguments were the continuation of a hearing on the gas station proposal that began five months ago.
2295 Management LLC wants to build the station in a strip mall just north of Route 295. A gas station is allowed in the area with a special-use permit from the Zoning Board.
The developer behind the application is Demetrios Haseotes, co-owner of the Cumberland Farms chain, according to town tax records.
According to Assistant Town Solicitor Richard Kirby, the board may turn down a permit application if it is found to endanger public health and safety, if it doesn't comply with the town's Comprehensive Plan, or if it doesn't conform with the surrounding neighborhood.
The current hearing is itself a reprise of an earlier one. Members of the Zoning Board stepped down last year just as the body was about to make a decision, and it was decided that the entire case had to be presented again before a newly constituted board.
Any resolution will take at least a few more meetings. Once both sides have presented all their evidence, the Zoning Board will hold one more meeting to review the case and make a decision, said board chairman Edward McCormick III.
Both sides have said that if they lose, they'll probably appeal the Zoning Board's decision in Superior Court. But neither lawyer will be allowed to submit new evidence there. That's why both sides are exhaustively building their cases now, said Andrew Teitz, the lawyer for the residents.