DEP, DCAM, & Town Meeting re MSH

Bill Massaro reports below on the out of the ordinary stakeholders meeting that DEP convened last Friday, 8/19/11, at its Worcester office (NB -where it was scheduled in the afternoon when I had to already be on the road to a wedding outside of Bangor, instead of the morning, I was unable to attend).  Bill follows Medfield State Hospital developments closer than anyone in town, and has been generous in sharing what he learns.  What follows is his report –
The “stakeholder” meeting called by DEP at their Worcester office Friday  afternoon lasted about three hours.  There were 19 attendees :   DEP–Mary Gardner, Mark Baldi, and Gary Dulmaine;  DCAM– Sandra Duran, John O’Donnell, and Craig Dunlop;  Weston & Sampson–Frank Ricciardi, Anthony Zerilli and Blake Martin; Charles River Watershed Association–Margaret Van Deusen, Kate Bowditch and Elise Leduc; Medfield –Mike Sullivan and Ann Thompson;  SHERC- John Thompson, Deb Bero and Andrea Stiller; PIP Group–John Harney and Bill Massaro.
The agenda was to resolve  the issues with DCAM’s proposed NOI/IRA to cover a small area of oil contamination in the river, and the riprapping( basically big chunks of stone armoring) to be put along 200 feet of the bank to keep the asbestos, and other contaminants in the river bank from eroding into the river. A swath about 50 feet wide and 200 ft long behind the riprap at the water’s edge would be removed/regraded and  replaced with clean fill.  A membrane cap covered with 3 ft of more clean soil would be placed over this new riverfront bank  and some (not all) of the remaining 3 acres of  C&D Area contaminated soil.   The in-river Aquablok cap was supposedly chosen because rapid approval from US Army Corps of Engineers was required to meet the DEP IRA deadline, and a dredging permit would have taken too long to secure.
We believe  that there is no  need to do this immediately, and that the contamination is decades old and is not actively eroding into the river.  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 completion.   DEP disagreed and insisted that DCAM must act now under the IRA.
In response to my questions about bid price, budget, and funding availability, DCAM advised that  there was no budget expiration date or other motive driving the schedule, just the requirement imposed by DEP..
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. This could leave the town and future development residents and other recreational users a state-sponsored, permanent  toxic landfill.
SHERC wants no riprap and wants more contaminated soil removed to protect the aquifer( Town Well #6 ) and future recreational users. SHERC is concerned about contaminated fill below groundwater being left in the C&D Area under the current plan, and the as yet incompletely defined extent of the chlorinated solvent plume extending down from the former laundry area, through the Power Plant area, and right up to the edge of the C&D Area at the riverbank.  DCAM would not discuss any alternatives involving removing contaminated material under the Algonquin Gas line which runs through the C&D Area, because Algonquin/Spectra “refused to allow it”, although no evidence of DCAM conversations with Algonquin was provided. 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.
Despite requests to determine if the solvent plume has migrated under the river, DCAM has not performed any sampling there. ( Note: A new sample along the bank further downstream from the prior monitoring well closest to the river was taken at our request.  Data was provided on Thursday showing about 6 times ( 35 ug/liter) the level of CVOC’s from the earlier well’s 6.4 ug/l.   DCAM’s position was  that since the Groundwater 3 standard ( flow into the river) is 5000ug/l, this is not a concern. My position (and SHERC’s) was that the Groundwater 1 standard, which DCAM had previously committed to, is 5ug/l, and the plume is in the Zone 2 aquifer. I wanted assurances that whatever was done now would not impede any future clean up, i.e. everything now should be “temporary” until all the contamination issues, like the chlorinated solvent plume, and alternative remediations are fully identified. I also preferred that no riprap be used  because once it went down would be there forever; and if remediating the solvent plume in the Power Plant and C&D Area required access to what’s under the riprap, they wouldn’t be able to get to it. DEP said they would direct DCAM to sample for under-river migration of the plume.
CRWA doesn’t want riprap for mostly aesthetic reasons, and in-river they wish minimum disturbance from removal activity. They are concerned that subsequent removal of the in-river Aquablok cap for replacement by a permanent solution will be more disruptive than waiting to effect a permanent solution via cap or dredge.  Waiting until release of the Final CSA Report for any in-river remediation would provide ample time for securing any needed USACOE dredging approval.    In an attempt to compromise and allow DCAM to meet their low-water deadline, CRWA suggested that rather than riprapping 200 ft of bank, armor only the area of riverbank adjacent to where erosion has supposedly caused contamination of sediment.   DCAM stated that the bidding process did not allow sufficient time for seeking bids on the de-scoped job before the end of low-water.
Despite several statements that cost was not a major determinant of the remedial solution chosen,  DCAM repeatedly cited costs of removal of greater volumes of contaminated material as being budget, as well as schedule, prohibitive.  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. She stated that this was evidence that the need to comply with DEP’s IRA during the current low-water season, not cost, was the principal factor in their selection of the proposed NOI/IRA remediation.  (Note: $2.6 million of the $3 million supposedly 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.)
DCAM did not offer any comment on SHERC’s John Thompson’s question of whether  a trade-off study comparing DCAM’s cost of additional contaminated debris removal vs. Medfield’s cost of losing a town well had been done and included in any evaluation of alternatives..
 In response to my questions about winning subcontractor bid price, DCAM advised that the winning bid was $1.7 million, and confirmed that there was no budget expiration date driving the schedule.  DCAM again stated that DEP’s IRA response requirements were driving the urgent remediation.
Discussion was heated at several points…..  It was clear to me that DCAM was not going to be dissuaded by any of our concerns or arguments. 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 that 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 CRWA and by John Thompson.
Although it is remotely possible that  some kind of DEP-enforced compromise might come out of the meeting and that DEP may put some conditions on the riverbank effort, it seems clear to me that this would only go a small way to what SHERC and CRWA wanted.  DEP could not be talked into delaying the riprap, and DCAM stated that their procurement process would not allow enough time to go out for revised bids(either for increased scope–remove more, or for decreased scope–less riprap) as long as DEP insists that the work must be done this low-water season ends on Oct 15.
The best outcome that could be expected under this low-water constraint is  that 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.  DEP could also request the additional sampling to better define the extent of the solvent plume under the river.
I do not believe that this is acceptable.
As noted above, DCAM has funding for the job that is not budget year constrained.  They have stated that, if not for the requirement imposed by DEP,  they could re-bid alternative work scopes, and next year could perform a mutually agreed remediation of the C&D area, the Power plant area, the CVOC plume next year, with the in-river work being done at next year’s low water.  DEP states that they cannot allow DCAM to delay the work because of the MCP.
I would propose the following to relieve both DEP and DCAM of the deadline burden imposed by the IRA:
It is my understanding that issuance of an Order of Conditions (OOC) by Medfield’s ConComm is pending.   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 an appeal.  In addition I would urge meeting with Town Counsel to develop additional approaches should the appeal be denied.
Bill Massaro

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