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Sen. Timilty Remains ‘Actively Engaged’ in Medfield State Hospital Cleanup

Senator James Timilty said he was satisfied with the Senate adopting Amendment GOV 135 into the proposed state budget last Thursday, calling it the “first step” in the process to get the Medfield State Hospital site cleaned up properly.

Senator James Timilty (D-Walpole) continues to stand by the Medfield community he represents during the town’s quest for complete remediation of the property and complete removal of hazardous waste on the site.

Last Thursday, the State Senate debated two amendments, GOV 134 and 135, that Sen. Timilty proposed to be included in the FY13 state budget regarding cleanup of the Medfield State Hospital property.

The Senate adopted a revised version of GOV 135, which requires DCAM to report its cleanup plan for the state hospital site to legislature. If adopted into the final budget recommendation, legislature will check DCAM's plan to ensure it is based on a standard of unrestricted use for the hospital property, fully complies with all state and federal environmental regulations and standards, fully complies with the recommendations regarding flood plain restoration and management as described in the September 2011 Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Report and addresses the concerns of the town of Medfield and of surrounding communities in the Charles River Watershed.

"[DCAM] has to realize they are going to have to at some point make a report back to legislature on what they’re doing," Timilty said.

Timilty said he shares Medfield's concerns that the scope of DCAM's investigation regarding the hazardous contaminants at the state hospital property has not met the satisfaction of interested parties.

"Especially people on [Medfield's] SHERC have been concerned about the scope of the investigation and the way the investigation into what the contaminants were [on the property] and to the extent [the investigation had or] hadn’t been done," Timilty said.

Despite the revisions made from Timilty’s original document, the state senator said he was pleased with the Senate's decision.

“I’m satisfied with this revision and I’m ready to go for the next step,” Timilty said. “This is just the start. It’s a step.”

The next step for Timilty is to see the amendment be adopted by the House and included in the final budget recommendation.

"This is a governmental conversation that is going to be ongoing," Timilty said. "It started eight years ago when I took office in my first meeting. I’ve had a long and not too pleasant history with this particular issue because my one and only goal was to protect the community that I represent. I would not waver and I would not equivocate and I would be heard. It’s going to continue."

Sen. Timilty has been an advocate for Medfield in the Senate, saying that anything short of unrestricted use of the property will be unsatisfactory.

"I’ve been chasing the state hospital cleanup for about 10 years with some of the people who have been locally involved," said Timilty. ... "I have had some concerns about past practice and like any industry and any entity that has been around for 100 years; it is going to leave some sort of footprint. I always had been adamant that footprint would be cleaner than when what they had when they started. That’s the principle, that’s the moral imperative that any entity has, particularly if it is the state government."

Unsatisfied with DCAM's Phase IV remediation plan for the Medfield State Hospital, Timilty sent a letter to Gov. Deval Patrick to inform him of the situation. As of last Thursday, Timilty said the Massachusetts Governor has not responded to his letter but DCAM Commissioner Carole Cornelison has.

"It was a response from [DCAM] Commissioner [Carole Cornelison]," Timilty said. "Having some experience in state government, I got a bureaucratic answer. I’m not demonizing or saying anything bad about anybody but it was not a satisfactory answer. It was a bureaucratic answer because they were coming back with the answer that was the default position – defending what they had come up with."

And for Timilty, DCAM's current Phase IV remediation plan falls short of properly cleaning up the state hospital property.

"I’m not satisfied with the plan they came up with and that is why I went to the governor," Timilty said. "At the end of the day, we are the representatives of the community. I’m the legislative and he’s the executive. I went to the chief executive and I imagine that conversation will continue until such time as the abutters, the committees involved are satisfied."

Timilty said if GOV 135 is adopted by the House and succeeds in helping Medfield get the remediation result it seeks, it could become a standard moving forward.

"What we knew 20 years ago is far less than what we know now so let’s think 20 years ahead into the future," Timilty said. "At what point do we really start to confront some of the hazards we have in our communities and what are they going to lead to long term? I think [GOV 135] could be a precedent and [the cleanup of the Medfield State Hospital] a test case as to what we do going forward to lead to a better and healthier community. If this works, let’s do it all over the place and let’s start here."

As for GOV 134, which called for the state to provide “not less than $5,000,000 be expended for the total removal of all toxic materials from the site of the former Medfield State Hospital to the extent that, upon completion of the cleanup, the land is not subject to any activity and use limitation and is suitable for unrestricted use," Timilty said he was not surprised it was not adopted by the Senate.

"That was a long shot, that was a Hail Mary,” said Timilty of GOV 134. "I’m forced with a Phase IV remediation plan that is sub-standard to try and get $5 million added to the bottom line of the Environmental Protection [budget] to cleanup Medfield State Hospital."

Even if the amendment was adopted into the fiscal year 2013 budget, Timilty said there was no guarantee DEP would have used it to clean up the state hospital property.

"What is the sense that they would have used it for that purpose?" Timilty said of the $5 million he proposed be added to DEP's budget.

The proposal would have increased the total cost of cleanup of the property from $16,250,000 to $21,250,000.

While the amendment itself was not adopted, Timilty said he was pleased to inform his colleagues more about the issue Medfield faces.

"I just wanted my colleagues to be aware,” Timilty said. ... “I know it was a long shot but more importantly, what I wanted to do was hold the administration, because they are in charge of DEP and DCAM, hold the bureaucracies and speak to the fire."

Timilty said getting the state hospital properly cleaned up is an ongoing process – one that he will remain actively engaged in.

"I’m not done," Timilty said. "I want to see that [GOV 135] is adopted or picked up in the final recommendation. ... I will not let it go until such time as the [Medfield State Hospital] abutters and neighbors and the SHERC committee is satisfied. ... I will endeavor to get the best result and the best result is a better footprint when [the state] leaves than when [it] arrived.”

Jeremie Smith May 29, 2012 at 01:50 PM
GM, great question. The original language in GOV 135 would not have allowed DCAM to move forward with their current plan until it was proved to legislature it was based on the standard of unrestricted use and fully complied with state and federal environmental regulations and standards. The revised version that was adopted by Senate removes much of that language, requiring DCAM to simply report if its plan meets these standards and explain why if it does not. In its current form, this amendment does not prevent DCAM from moving forward with its current plan but gets legislature more involved in the process. It is Sen. Timilty's hope that through this process, legislature becomes more aware of the issue with the cleanup in Medfield and does something about it. But you are correct in the points/questions you made about this amendment; it does nothing to force DCAM to change its plan.
Osler Peterson May 29, 2012 at 03:39 PM
GM and Jeremie - I saw the requirement in the amendment to "report on whether it: (i) is based on a standard of unrestricted use for the site," as the Senate telling DCAM that it expected removal of the waste. It is my understanding that "unrestricted use" is a defined term in the Massachusetts Contingency Plan, indicating a level of clean up that can only be achieved by removing the waste, instead of the cap & cover DCAM has proposed.
Jeremie Smith May 29, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Hi Pete. Thanks for the note. I just want to make sure we are all on the same page – while full cleanup may be expected, it is not required through the amendment the Senate adopted last week, according to Sen. Timilty. There's much more to be done in getting DCAM to fully clean up the site and Sen. Timilty says he will remain active on behalf of Medfield to see the site is cleaned up properly. The Senator called the Senate’s action last week just one step in that process and was satisfied with the amendment’s revision because it will keep his colleagues better informed on the issue Medfield is facing.
Osler Peterson May 29, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Jeremie, First, the amendment still has to pass the house and be signed by the governor. Second, I do read the amendment the same way that you do, that a full removal is not required, and that what is required is merely to report back to the legislature on what has been done. However, if DCAM opts to not do the full removal, I would expect the legislature to be disappointed. Then again, the legislature has chosen to just ignore initiative petitions we voters have passed, and there have been no consequence, so perhaps DCAM could make a political calculation as to whether it could just ignore the will of the legislature.
Jeremie Smith May 29, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Thanks Pete. Yes, the amendment itself is still in the early process of being included in the final FY13 budget and I agree with both of your points: It would seem legislature would be disappointed if DCAM does not opt for a complete remediation of the site but it also remains possible that legislature will not act against DCAM's plan. Time will tell and we will continue reporting as the process unfolds.

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