The Mansion House Inn paid $21,400 for illegally pumping an estimated 15,000 to 25,000 gallons of groundwater per day into the town’s wastewater treatment plant.
Under a public records request, the town released the letter requesting the payment and a check from Sherman Goldstein, owner of the Mansion House, making the payment. Both the demand letter and the check bear the same date — Oct. 29, 2021.
“The assessed charge is $21,400, which is based on the rate of $100 per day for a total of 214 days,” the letter signed by town administrator Jay Grande states. “Please be aware that any future discharge of stormwater or groundwater into the municipal wastewater system from your premises will be assessed at a higher rate per day. I have been advised by our wastewater superintendent that the rate will be a minimum of $500 per day.”
It’s never been determined how long the illegal pumping was going on, though the hotel’s basement being inundated by groundwater dates back to when the hotel was rebuilt after a 2001 fire.
The $21,400 accounts for about 21 days of flow, using the town’s rate of .041 per gallon at the estimated 25,000 gallons per day that were being pumped illegally, or 35 days if you consider the low end of the estimate at 15,000 gallons per day.
Grande said the amount was determined by the town’s wastewater department.
Jared Meader, the town’s wastewater superintendent, told The Times wastewater couldn’t seek charges based on gallons because it would have fluctuated, and wasn’t metered. Instead, the $100 per day for 214 days — from the time it was discovered until Mansion House installed a leaching system — is how the amount was calculated, he said. “Ultimately, it comes down to what we can prove,” Meader said.
The $100 is what the building department charges for a first-offense fine, Meader said. “That’s how we came up with that,” he said. “We want to be consistent moving forward.”
The amount was presented to the Goldsteins and they paid it, Meader said.
Susie Goldstein, owner of the Mansion House, responded to The Times on behalf of her husband, Sherman, and son, Josh. “It has been our pleasure and privilege to work with the town of Tisbury since 1985,” she wrote in an email. “The compensatory charge, which was mutually agreed to for the discharge, was a fair amount, and which we promptly paid.”
The Goldsteins have said they were unaware of the illegal hookup in the basement of the Main Street hotel that sent thousands of gallons of water per day into the town system undetected and unpaid-for. The Mansion House has since installed a leaching field where the groundwater is now pumped.
Meader told The Times surprise inspections are done at the Mansion House once a quarter. “Everything has been consistent,” he said.
The issue was uncovered in May 2020. With the pandemic forcing the closure of businesses, including the Mansion House, wastewater levels plummeted, except those coming from the hotel. Former wastewater superintendent David Thompson investigated the unusual flow from the Mansion House, and discovered the hookup.
Thompson would later lose his job, he says, because he blew the whistle on the illegal hookup. His allegations were backed up by former select board member Melinda Loberg, who says select board Jeff Kristal urged her and the sewer board to keep the Mansion House issue quiet while Josh Goldstein worked out a solution. John Best, another former member of the sewer board who has since been forced off that committee, corroborated Loberg’s story.
Kristal defended himself at a select board meeting in December 2020, saying there was no coverup or collusion.
Goldstein served on the town’s sewer advisory board at the time the illegal hookup was discovered, but he gave up that post just a month before his family paid the Oct. 29 demand notice from the town. Goldstein has since decided not to seek reappointment to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission as the town’s representative as well, and the town is seeking applications for his replacement.