The closed gate to Hallowell city brush pile on Tuesday. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

HALLOWELL — The city’s brush dump is closed after city officials were contacted by the state environmental protection department with questions about its setback requirements, as well as the monitoring of the site and the hours it was open.

City Manager Nate Rudy said Tuesday the city was contacted by the state Department of Environmental Protection on April 16 with questions regarding the brush dump’s setback requirements, monitoring of the site’s use and its operating hours. In response to those questions, he said, the city temporarily closed the property until it “can clearly establish that we meet the DEPs regulatory standards regarding the setbacks.”

“We are working actively on a resolution that we hope will satisfy all of DEPs questions,” Rudy said.

Public Works Foreman Chris Buck said the owner of an abutting property was concerned about use of the property during the coronavirus pandemic. They then also raised concerns about the property with the state Department of Environmental Protection. City health officials are not convinced the property poses a public health risk.

Buck said the city’s brush dump has been there for as long as he can remember. The city has a permit with the DEP for the site, he said, and this is the first time a concern has been raised.

Demand for the brush pile is high, Buck said, as people stuck at home social distancing are getting the jump on in spring clean-up.

The city’s brush dump is on Fish and Game Road, off of Town Farm Road just south of the reservoir. The city-owned property is abutted by nine property owners, according to city property tax records. Buck declined to name the abutter that approached the city with the complaint.

The city’s Board of Health briefly discussed health concerns at the brush pile at a meeting earlier this month.

Pediatrician Sydney Sewall said at that meeting that he didn’t see a public health reason for the brush pile to close, as people usually are far from each other when using the resource. On Tuesday, he said he tried to use the brush dump and found it closed. When he called City Hall to see why, Sewall said he was told it was a DEP matter. He said concerns about coronavirus being contracted at the brush dump may be misplaced.

“It’s outdoors; there’s no reason for people to congregate near each other,” Sewall said. “There’s no rational reason why COVID should have any bearing on an abutter’s (concern).”

DEP officials David Madore and Kevin Martin did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

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