WAKEFIELD — Things got a little heated once again at last night’s Conservation Commission meeting as the ConCom continues its review of a Notice of Intent for the planned new Northeast Metro Tech regional vocational high school on Hemlock Road.  

Tensions surfaced over issues raised in a letter from Douglas Heath that appeared in yesterday’s Daily Item Forum and was also sent to the commission. Also at issue was water-testing on the Northeast Metro Tech site that was conducted by Heath without obtaining permission to enter the property. 

During a discussion of the potential use of salt as a de-icer on the roadway to the new school, Heath told the commission that he had tested the water at one the outflows on the site and found it to be “nearly pristine.” Heath, a hydrogeologist by profession, expressed surprise that more “baseline sampling” of water on the site had not been done. 

Representing Northeast Metro Tech, attorney Julie Barry said that her team would be willing to discuss water testing, but questioned under what authority Heath had done it on his own. 

“We would like to know who gave permission to enter the property to take the samples to begin with, because there was certainly none requested,” she said. “If you’re taking water samples without permission, you’re trespassing.” 

Barry noted that there are proper ways for the sampling to be done in order to ensure the integrity of the samples and to make sure that all parties get accurate reports of the results. 

Barry was also critical of Heath’s letter that appeared in yesterday’s Item Forum. She maintained that Heath was suggesting in his letter that the Conservation Commission is not doing its job. She noted that the Conservation Commission’s authority and jurisdiction arise under the Wetlands Protection Act.  

“This Commission has acted duly within its authority and jurisdiction in continually requesting information in order to make sure that those aspects of the Wetlands Protection Act that apply are adhered to,” Barry said. “So, to have these gross, blanket statements that this commission is not doing its duty, that this project is taking off with no oversight, no questioning, no review and no authority is simply incorrect and wrong.” 

She said that the team representing Northeast Metro Tech has been doing everything it can to show that it is complying with the Wetland Protection Act and the Conservation Commission has been doing its job by protecting the resource area through its investigative processes. 

Town Engineer William Renault agreed. 

“The Wetlands Protection Act lays it all out,” he said. “They’re meeting all the requirements.” 

Heath said that he agreed that water samples should be taken properly but defended his acting alone, claiming that there appeared to be no interest in doing water sampling on the part of the applicant or the Commission. 

Ultimately, project engineer Kevin Nigro of PMA Associates committed to the commission that no salt products that harm the environment will be used as de-icers on the driveway to the school. 

Several activists who believe that the project as proposed should not be built at all were also at last night’s Zoom meeting. Critics have argued that building on the wooded site, which is owned by Northeast Metro Tech, will destroy a forest habitat. 

Alison Simcox of Stedman Street identified herself as “a PhD in environmental engineering.” She said that wetlands would be significantly impacted by the project. 

“There is no way to preserve this wetland as it now exists,” she insisted. “You’re essentially losing these water bodies if you build this project.” 

A woman identified as Joy Pearson said that she didn’t understand why the Conservation Commission was accepting as a given that the project would be built in the forested area.  

Conservation Commission Chairman Bob Romano explained that the commission can only review the project as presented.  

The hearing was continued to the commission’s March 7 meeting, when there will be more discussion of stormwater.