The emotions of parents of whose children attend range from apathetic to panic, when it comes to the school's neighbor .
Rosana Souza, a Brazilian mother of a third grader at Wilson Elementary School, speaks little English. “I was told that the whole school was contaminated. I called a teacher and she told me if that were the case, she wouldn’t be working there,” said Souza in Portuguese.
Monday night at a hearing attended by more than 100 people Framingham Health Director Ethan Mascoop restated the school is safe. The air quality is tested very regularly, he added.
, presented a series of safety violations he personally found since taking office in 2008. Violations ranged from leakage of toxic materials to inappropriate use of storage labels to underground contamination at General Chemical.
“He (Mascoop) could be a little bit less impartial,” said Regia Delana, a mother of a second grader. “He could have talked more about the risks, with comments from local residents, “she added.
Delana, who is the president of a parents’ organization pushing to improve the bilingual educational system, is very worried about “how this imminent contamination can affect the students.”
, encouraging Brazilians in the neighborhood to attend Monday's hearing, only about a dozen parents, whose children attend Wilson Elementary, were in the audience.
Parallel to the questions Framingham residents have raised about the contamination caused by General Chemical, Brazilians, whose kids represent 75% of Wilson Elementary, are having a debate of their own.
“Why we’ve had just a dozen of Brazilians attending the meeting, if our kids are the majority of the school students,” inquired host Sergio Resende over the airwaves of local radio station . “We’re very timid in face of a very serious situation. If we don’t care about our kids, about whom we are going to care?”
Brothers Angelo and Ramon Coelho said the migrant Brazilian community is accustomed of thinking they will move back to Brazil at some point, and thus doesn't get involved in local (Framingham) issues.
“But before we notice, we stay here for years, decades. We must participate in all community events,” said Angelo Coelho, a father of two students. Coelho has lived in America for 16 years.
His brother Ramon Coelho said he was first informed about the toxic spills two years ago by the Latino Health Insurance Program, a local organization specialized in providing immigrants with access to health services.
Coelho said he knew the situation was critical, but said Monday night was the first time he participated in a hearing about the topic.
The Coelho brothers held signs saying: “Protect our health, protect Framingham.”
Noeci Rocha, who now has her third child attending Wilson, said she heard a lot of stories from Framingham parents about the local contamination, but she never thought the situation was serious.
“Until I attended a PTO meeting two weeks ago and was told about underground contamination," she said. "Now, I want to know everything there is to know.”
State Rep. Tom Sannicandro, who represents a part of Framingham, told Framingham Patch the “Board of Health is being very proactive,” and that any cleanup efforts should be paid for by General Chemical or the federal government.
State Rep. Chris Walsh, Framingham's other representative, echoed Sannicandro’s support to the Board of Health. For him, the site (of General Chemical) will never be completely clean. Therefore, state and local authorities should keep the company involved, Walsh said.
A local consultant testifying at Monday night's hearing said that of all 12 sites in Massachusetts containing toxic waste, General Chemical might be the most contaminated.
“The contamination can go hundreds of feet. I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes 300 feet,” said Andrew Smyte, an environmental consultant at TRC, a national consulting company in Connecticut with 3,000 employees.
“If you think the cleanup efforts will take 1, 2, 5, and 10 or 20 years, it’s not going to happen,” he said.