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Wetlands remediation begins at Weston Middle School

A $330,000 wetland remediation project behind Weston Middle School has begun.

Workers from Sum-Co Ecocontracting of Salem, Mass., were on site as of July 9, removing invasive vegetation like cattails and grading the area to improve natural drainage.

Tom Landry, town administrator, explained that when the intermediate school was built six or seven years ago, “it encompassed some invasion of wetlands.” The Army Corps of Engineers allows this as long as comparable areas of wetlands are created in other areas.

Several smaller patches were created, but “didn’t take,” Mr. Landry said. This is a relatively common occurrence, he said, so the Army Corps of Engineers did not require the town to redo them, but when it came to the area behind the middle school, “they told us, ‘This one’s big enough that you need to redo it,'” Mr. Landry said.

The main problem is the elevations behind the middle school were changed so that pre-existing wetlands behind the high school started to not drain properly. The work being done now includes slightly flattening the area and creating a channel for water to flow more freely to where it is supposed to go.

When plans were drawn up in 2009, the engineer estimated the project would cost about $120,000. But by the time bids came in nearly a year later, they were about two-and-a-half times that, Mr. Landry said.

The town withdrew the plans and bid slightly different specs, but the result was “not much better,” the town administrator said.

Ultimately, the town contracted with Sum-Co for $237,585. But, Mr. Landry said, there was an additional cost of almost $100,000 for site and design work.

Because the remediation work involves a lot of loud, heavy machinery, the town received permission from the corps to delay the project — which originally had a completion date that would have put construction during the school year — until this summer.

The first part of the project, underway now, involves removing vegetation (“I sometimes joke that handling cattails is just one step below handling nuclear waste — it’s so invasive, they have to be that careful with how they remove it and where it goes,” Mr. Landry said.), and earth moving.

A second phase that will take place in late September/early October involves planting about 50 different kinds of new vegetation. Mr. Landry said they will plant nearly 3,000 individual plants in all.

Between the engineering work that has to go into the project, the labor intensity involved with planting that many different plants, and the fact the town must pay the prevailing wage, “you begin to see why it costs so much,” Mr. Landry said.

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