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Senator Timilty Takes Medfield State Hospital Issue to Governor

Senator James Timilty, who represents Medfield as part of Norfolk County, recently sent a letter to Governor Deval Patrick outlining his concerns regarding DCAM’s current plan for partial cleanup of the Medfield State Hospital site.

Editor’s note: Senator Timilty’s letter to Governor Deval Patrick was submitted to Medfield Patch by Medfield resident Bill Massaro. A PDF file of the hard copy of the letter can be viewed in the photo gallery below.

Senator James Timilty continues to stand in Medfield’s corner regarding the environmental cleanup of the former property and has now involved Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick on the matter.

Timilty, who represents Medfield as part of Norfolk County, has been outspoken in his objections to the Division of Capital Asset Management’s proposal for only partial cleanup of 75,000 tons of hazardous waste located on the former Medfield State Hospital property.

At the town’s March 22 Public Involvement Process meeting with DCAM, Timilty told the state agency the Commonwealth of Massachusetts owes it to the town of Medfield to fully remove the waste, regardless of the cost.

 "I have been involved in the [Medfield State Hospital] process principally over the last eight years as the state senator here in Medfield," Timilty said at the March 22 PIP meeting. ... "Since the principle responsible party [of the state hospital property] is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and since the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is charged with the cleanup, I would say anything less than unrestricted use and access is insufficient for me. And should [complete remediation] be a problem, for say in instance, of cost for what is the most feasible for the Commonwealth, I would suggest that it's the job of the legislature to come up with the money that is appropriate in order to do that.

"We have an obligation to the aquifer, obligation to the Charles River, an obligation to this town and the surrounding communities to make certain it is cleaned up to the point where it satisfies the neighborhood and the town and I think for all of us before we go forward. When it comes down to millions, we spend $30 billion to get the state through a fiscal year. ...

"I'm not going to debate the science because I don't have to, but until or unless we are at unrestricted use and access as the principle responsible party, I wouldn't be satisfied with that. I don't think it's right for the neighborhood or this town and that is exactly what we should do and I won't be satisfied otherwise. I certainly hope we will be in complete agreement both from the commissioner [of DCAM], the administration on down through the legislative body and through the town selectmen and town manager that everybody is happy and most importantly, the abutters that are going to have to live with this for generations to come, we owe it to the generations that come after us to leave better than we inherited."

Still not satisfied with DCAM’s position regarding the cleanup of the property, Timilty continues to voice support for Medfield’s position on the matter and shares the concerns of residents and town officials regarding the potential health risks leaving the toxic waste can have on the future of the town. Medfield is currently preparing to enter into mediation with DCAM to try and reach an agreement on remediation of the site that better satisfies the town than the state agency’s current proposal and only time will tell how those mediation hearings go in terms of the town gaining full, unrestricted use of the site, which according to Timilty , is what the state owes the town.

Under DCAM’s current plan, it is expected to leave approximately 85 percent of the 75,000 tons of hazardous waste – lead, asbestos, medical waste and coal/incineration ash – alongside the Charles River, under the groundwater table and in the aquifer of Medfield’s main town well (#6), according to resident Bill Massaro.

This plan, as stated by Timilty, is “insufficient” for the town and as a result, the State Senator sent the following letter to Governor Patrick on the issue, dated Saturday, April 28, 2012:

Dear Governor Patrick:

I write today regarding the disposition of the site of the former Medfield State Hospital. After years of involvement with this issue, I remain outraged and extremely concerned about the Department of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance’s current Phase IV remediation plan for the site. Under the plan, DCAM would not fully remove all of the hazardous materials (including, among other toxic substances, construction and demolition debris and hospital waste) from the land on the banks of the Charles River.

First and foremost, as a Commonwealth we share a moral imperative to ensure that residents are able to live and raise their families in a safe, clean environment. Massachusetts has long been a leader in environmental stewardship, and I believe the incomplete cleanup planned for Medfield State Hospital site is inconsistent with the stated goals of the Administration to move toward a greener future.

Specifically, the Climate Change Adaptation Report, required under the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008 and issued in September 2011, identifies restoring  and managing flood plains as a priority in protecting the Commonwealth from impacts of climate change. The Report notes the risks posed by former landfills and other contaminated sites with respect to flooding, recommending that the health of flood plains be preserved and restored in preparation for rising water levels in order to limit the potential economic and environmental damage flooding may cause. The Medfield State Hospital site sits on 3.2 acres of flood plain along the Charles River, putting the watershed and community at risk under DCAM’s current plan. This has implications not only for Medfield but also for homes and businesses in municipalities all along the Charles.

In terms of cost, the expense of a total removal of hazardous materials from the site would be a comparatively modest increase over the current remediation plan. The Fiscal Year 2013 budget engrossed this week by the House of Representatives is over $32 billion; the estimated difference between DCAM’s current Phase IV remediation plan and the cost of a total cleanup is $5 million. Certainly, $5 million is no small amount in this economy, but given the grave implications of leaving toxic materials at the site and in comparison to the overall budget, it is absolutely our duty to protect the well being of those who choose to make Medfield their home.

Most importantly, nothing short of complete removal of all toxic material will guarantee the safety of current and future residents. Labeling town land in close proximity to residences and water resources labeled as limited use, with the potential for severe environmental problems 10, 20, or even 50 years down the road, is simply unacceptable, particularly given the site’s location in Zone II of the town well. And, as you might imagine, it is incredibly frustrating to have the same entity responsible for polluting the site make the decisions as to how to address the problem. If a private company were in the same position, I would argue any cleanup plan addressing less than 100% of the waste left behind would not be approved by state regulators charged with upholding strict environmental protection standards.

Many town residents with professional expertise in environmental matters strongly disagree with DCAM’s current plan and with the rationale behind the plan, and I wholeheartedly share their concerns. I do intend to seek funding for this project during the Senate budget debate next month, and I am hopeful I will receive support from my colleagues in the Legislature and from the Administration in doing so. We must put our words into action and affirm our commitment to a clean and healthy environment by restoring the Medfield State Hospital site to a fully accessible, useful, and beautiful property.

Thank you for your attention to this extremely important matter, and I look forward to working with you to resolve this problem in a way that appropriately protects the citizens of Medfield and surrounding communities.

With every good wish,

James E. Timilty
State Senator
Bristol & Norfolk District

For more information on the cleanup of the Medfield State Hospital property, click here.

Paul Buckley May 02, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Governor Patrick has been in office since 2006. It took Senator Timilty 6 years to write a letter? The submitted to the Medfield Patch by Bill? This is your leadership folks...time for a change!
Alden Daybre May 02, 2012 at 09:48 PM
If he really cared about the issue, you'd think he would have stayed for most of the Town Meeting this past Monday instead of leaving after the introductions. We need someone who will take the time to listen to Medfield and help us out.
Lee Ann May 03, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Timilty is a day late and a dollar short on this one. As I stated before, he's had more than enough time to not only clean out this site, but tear it down and rebuild. Not exactly taking the lead in my book.
Steve Feinstein May 04, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Senator Timilty appears to be demonstrating his unparalleled skill of reading the direction of the political winds before actually taking a stand and letting his views be seen in public. He is Massachusetts' version of "leading from behind." That doesn't serve anyone's good when it's done in DC and it surely doesn't do any good here in MA.

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