On March 1, the Framingham Board of Health held its fifth hearing on .
Last week, in a conference call town and school officials were "horrified" to learn that General Chemical Clean Ventures, that operates at 138 Leland St, filed paperwork with the state to expand its operations to 133 Leland St, when its sister company General Chemical closes in April.
Clean Venture "operations do not permit transfer of wastes, as did General Chemical, but do include the storage of parking of trucks holding various hazardous wastes, universal wastes and non hazardous wastes, including various wastes that were not allowed on the General Chemical property for periods of up to five days while transportation plans for the disposal of the cargo on the trucks was arranged by Clean Venture," said Health Board Chair Michael Hugo.
The believes the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (Mass DEP) did not give the town valid notification of the license renewal by Clean Venture.
Attorney Nina Pickering-Cook, who is working with a citizen's group (FACES) against General Chemical/Clean Venture, suggested the town use its existing zoning laws to block the expansion across Leland Street.
Pickering-Cook explained that 133 Leland St. is in a residentially-zoned district, unlike the current location of Clean ventures at 138 Leland St. She said an expansion across the street could not be interpreted as grandfathering, and thus the town's current zoning bylaws would make it impossible for Clean Ventures to expand next to Wilson Elementary.
Hugo saidwas researching the zoning matter and the lack of notification issue, as ways to block the license renewal by Clean Ventures with the state.
"The zoning option would safe the town of money, and it's our best option," said Hugo after the meeting.
School Committee Chair Beverly Hugo said she planned to have a meeting Friday morning with the Superintendent of Schools to discuss health concerns, specifically around recess at Wilson Elementary.
As part of the clean-up of the General Chemical site, steam cleaning (which would release vapors into the air) and sandblasting of the tanks (which would release dust into the air) would take place to make the facility "broom clean," explained Michael Hugo.
"Of immediate concern is the issue of aersolized particles, dust and moisture intruding into neighboring properties, including the homes in the immediate areas and the Wilson Elementary School," said Hugo.
"Despite pressing the DEP for assurance that the department would stand with the Board of Health to assure protection of our children and residents, through for example air monitoring and detailed plans shared with the town, they would not commit to any protection," said Hugo.
"Most importantly, we wish to gain the Department's cooperation in assuring that no sandblasting or pressure washing take place while school is in session, and particularly when the children are outdoors, and the DEP refused to make such assurances. In fact the DEP has taken the position that this Board has no jurisdiction over any further facility closure activities and cleanup of the site, as General Chemical, will surrender its license to operate at this time," said Hugo
He subsequently met with State Rep. Chris Walsh, who will be arranging a meeting with the Health Board Chair and the state's Secretary of Environmental Affairs.
Framingham has until Wednesday, March 21 to officially comment on Clean Venture’s plan to take General Chemical’s spot.
General Chemical will cease taking in waste on site, as of March 30, and is expected to begin closure activities on April 16.
A 2006 agreement with the state had General Chemical setting aside $75,000 for cleanup costs; but a recent 2011 proposal has the company required to set aside $1.407 million for "disposal of wastes on the property, the decontamination of the tanks and structures on the property, the disposal of waste water generated by steam and pressure cleaning, the certification of the completion of closure and then to continue groundwater monitoring and corrective action."
Hugo said through some negotiations by DEP, "where were in part driven by comments made by this Board, the sum of available money has been increased to $1.549 million."
During the hearing last night, Pickering-Cook advocated for the Framingham Board of Health to revoke the site assignment for General Chemical, the purpose of the public hearing which began last year and has lasted six sessions. Instead, the Board of Health postponed the hearing until April 30, a seventh session.
One of the organizers of FACES (Framingham Action Coalition for Environmental Safety) Sidney Faust thanked the Board of Health for advocating for the immigrant community, that lives in that neighborhood. He said the community is "afraid to show up and afraid to speak out in public."
"We don't want any toxins in our neighborhood," said Faust, as he described seeing neighborhood kids playing near the houses that were contaminated and bought by the company. He said there are no signs on the properties to indicate the hazards.
"There's no fence. There's no sign," Faust added, while apologizing for his lack of public speaking skills.
"You don't think you speak well, but you speak from the heart and we understand what you are trying to say," said Health Board Chair Hugo.
Evelyn Mazmanian testified she believes she developed a rare lung disease from when she lived in a unit on Universal Street in Framingham, beginning in 1989.
Fighting tears, she looked at the group of citizens from FACES, and told them "keep doing what you are doing."
"It was very emotional for me to come her tonight. I don't know why I got it or if it is from General Chemical but I wanted to come and stand up for everyone who lives over there now," said the former Framingham resident.
Selectman Ginger Esty said she was "impressed" by Mazmanian coming to speak.
Esty said the town has the "opportunity now to do something about the spill, the cleanup and about the future plans and for the voices that can't speak for themselves."
Hugo said he learned that General Chemical recently was meeting with the Conservation Commissioner by reading Framingham Patch. He said he had to go to the meeting and tell the Conservation Commissioners that what they were hearing from General Chemical was not all the facts. He suggested they come visit the Board of Health's room full of General Chemical paperwork.
Hugo said he is tired of all the town's boards and departments working independently and it is time for everyone to work cooperatively. He said if he needs to, he would go to Town Meeting and scream into the microphone to get everyone's attention.
After the meeting, he said it is imperative that all town departments and boards work together on this issue.