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Agencies Remain Firm in Remediation Plan of Medfield State Hospital Despite Town Concerns

Representatives from the Town of Medfield met with DCAM and DEP on Aug. 19 to discuss DCAM's proposed remediation plan for removing and capping oil contamination in the Charles River on the Medfield State Hospital site.

Representatives from the Town of Medfield met with the Division of Capital Asset Management (DCAM) and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on Aug. 19 to resolve issues with covering a small area of oil contamination in the Charles River at the site.

Bill Massaro, Medfield resident and state hospital abutter for 35 years, attended the Aug. 19 meeting and shared his report with Board of Selectmen chair Osler “Pete” Peterson, who posted it on his blog, Medfield 02052.

Peterson said in his blog post “DEP, DCAM & Town Meeting RE MSH” that Massaro “follows Medfield State Hospital developments closer than anyone in town” and shared what he learned at the Aug. 19 meeting. What follows is information compiled from Massaro's report:

It became clear, according to Massaro after the three-hour meeting on Aug. 19, that DEP and DCAM would remain firm in moving forward with DCAM’s proposed Notice of Intent/Immediate Response Action plans to cover a small area of oil contamination in the Charles River and use of riprap to be placed along 200 feet of the riverbank to keep the asbestos and other contaminants found in the bank from eroding into the river.

Massaro said there are several concerns with this proposal from Medfield’s perspective but DEP and DCAM were not receptive to the town’s suggestions. The biggest disagreement between the town and the state agencies at the Aug. 19 meeting was the timeline for removing the contaminants from the Charles River.

DEP and DCAM says it needs to act quickly to meet the Immediate Response Action (IRA) deadline and take advantage of the low water levels of the Charles River during this time of year. Massaro and other town representatives disagree with that logic, primarily because it calls for a temporary solution before a permanent fix – raising concern that the temporary solution will become permanent, according to Massaro.

“We believe there is no need to [cap the oil contamination in the Charles River] immediately and the contamination is decades old and is not actively eroding into the river,” Massaro said in his report. “The major concern for us is fear that what DCAM is proposing as a lower-cost, temporary measure, needing to be done now during low-water, would actually turn out to be permanent. The property is slated for turnover to the Department of Conservation/Recreation and it is entirely possible that neither they nor DCAM will have future funding to allow the appropriate cleanup, if we do not push for it now.”

Massaro said “any remediation in the C&D Area should wait until DCAM’s pending release of the Final Phase II Comprehensive Site Analysis for the entire site, including the C&D Area, the Power Plant and the CVOC migration issue is completed.”

DEP disagreed with that notion and insisted DCAM act now, citing the IRA deadline.

Not pushing for permanent cleanup and accepting DCAM’s current proposal puts the town and its future development residents at risk, according to Massaro.

“This could leave the town and future development residents and other recreational users a state-sponsored, permanent, toxic landfill,” Massaro said.

The town’s State Hospital Environmental Review Committee (SHERC) reported it doesn’t want riprap used in the cleanup and removal and instead wants more contaminated soil removed to protect the aquifer, town well No. 6, and future recreational users.

Massaro said DCAM would not discuss any alternatives involving removing contaminated material under the Algonquin Gas line, which runs through the C&D Area of the state hospital site because Algonquin/Spectra “refused to allow it.”

“No evidence of DCAM conversations with Algonquin was provided,” Massaro said. “DCAM would not consider removing more material up to the gas line easement, not under it, because it is too expensive and they do not have enough time to re-bid the increased scope of the job before the end of low-water conditions.”

The Charles River Watershed Association said it is concerned DCAM’s current proposal of a temporary solution followed by a permanent solution later to remove contaminants from the river would be “more disruptive than waiting to effect a permanent solution.”

Massaro said despite several statements from DCAM that cost was not a major determinant of the remedial solution chosen, it repeatedly cited costs of removal of greater volumes of contaminated material as being prohibited by the budget and schedule.

“When the degree of emphasis on weighting cost in DCAM’s evaluation of  alternatives was questioned, DCAM’s  Sandra Durand passed out a sheet showing that DCAM had already spent $3 million dollars on cleanup at the Hospital,” Massaro said, while pointing out that $2.6 million of the $3 million said to be spent was on property being turned over to the developer.

“I believe that cleanup of potential contamination of a river and a public water supply on land going for public conservation/recreation use should be at least as important as cleanup of land going to development,” Massaro said.

DCAM said there was no budget expiration date, but DEP’s IRA requirements that were driving the urgent remediation schedule – a timeframe that DCAM remained firm in proceeding with.

“It was clear to me that DCAM was not going to be dissuaded by any of our concerns or arguments,” Massaro said. “Despite their statements at the meeting that they had no choice but to comply with the IRA and had to move quickly to remediate during this low-water season, I thought it was obvious they are determined to use the IRA  to their advantage to quickly get as much work done in the C&D Area as cheaply as they can.  They were unwilling to seriously discuss any of the alternatives put forth by Charles River Watershed Association and by SHERC chair John Thompson.”

Massaro said DEP could not be talked into delaying the riprap and DCAM said the process would not allow enough time to seek revised bids as long as DEP insists work must be done during the low-water season, which ends on Oct. 15.

“The best outcome that could be expected under this low-water constraint is everything except the riprap and the capped band of soil behind it may be deemed ‘temporary’ by DEP, who may then require DCAM to address removing more of the remaining contaminated soil after the low-water work is done,” Massaro said. “DEP could also request the additional sampling to better define the extent of the solvent plume under the river.”

Massaro said he did not believe this was acceptable and proposes the town files an appeal to relieve both DEP and DCAM of the IRA imposed deadline.

“It is my understanding that issuance of an Order of Conditions (OOC) by Medfield’s Conservation Commission is pending,” Massaro said. “This OOC is required before DCAM can begin work. Within 10 days of issuance of the OOC, aggrieved parties may file an appeal to DEP requesting a Superseding OOC. Within 30 days, it is my understanding that DEP must review this protest and provide a prompt ruling or schedule a prescreening conference. This hearing must be held within 120 days of filing the appeal. I would urge the town to promptly consider filing such an appeal.  In addition, I would urge meeting with Town Counsel [Mark Cerel] to develop additional approaches should the appeal be denied.”

Of the 19 people in attendance, Medfield was represented at the Aug. 19 meeting by Town Administrator Michael Sullivan and selectman Ann Thompson. SHERC chair John Thompson, SHERC members Deb Bero and Andrea Stiller and PIP group members John Harney and Bill Massaro and met with representatives from DCAM and DEP. 

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