Aquablok manufacturer weighs in

Emails from AquaBlok company


From: Patch – Peterson: DCAM Reportedly Has Withdrawn its Application to the Army Corps of Engineers
Sent: 10/25/2011 4:49PM

Peterson: DCAM Reportedly Has Withdrawn its Application to the Army Corps of Engineers

It is a shame that some feel it is necessary to create a situation where capping with AquaBlok is the “bad guy” – when, by fighting and eliminating the pursuit of this approach now, you will only create more and ongoing damage to be done to habitat and the river – in the interest of doing what is believed to be a “better” clean-up. We always find it ironic that it is somehow better to wait (and allow ongoing damage to the environment to occur), particularly when there is not funding, a time-line or an engineered design in place that can be argued to be superior to what has been proposed. I don’t see much in the way of logic or science here – just an effective way to use words that bring an emotional response to achieve what you want – regardless of whether it is a scientifically defendable position. If you care to know of how protective the suggested approach would have been – regardless of whether it is temporary or permanent – I’d be happy to share some information. However, I doubt that this is important – since it is really just the “idea” that capping is bad which is being put forth – not the reality of the relative effectiveness of the result. John Collins 419-402-4170

10/25/2011  5:06PM
MSH – Medfield State Hospital Reuse
Patch – Peterson: DCAM Reportedly Has Withdrawn its Application to the Army Corps of Engineers, ,

Mr. Collins,

Thanks for your email.

Our town’s issue was a choice by the state to cap, versus a preference by the town to have the permanent solution be to remove oil in the Charles River that has been there for almost 40 years.  The Town of Medfield took no real stance with respect to the Aquablok, except to prefer removal.  Another branch of the state has now told the first branch of the state that they will have to remove the oil next year, and the Town of Medfield’s position then became that we do not care whether you cap this year or not, but that it just seems like a waste of money to cap with Aquablok this year and remove both the oil and Aquablok next year, especially where the oil has been there undisturbed for so long already.

I am sure that Aquablok is a fine product, and I have been interested in learning what little I have to date about it.  Congratulations on a successful product.

Osler L. Peterson


From: “John Collins –”
To: “Osler L. Peterson”
Sent: 10/25/2011 6:12PM
Subject: RE:

Mr. Osler,

I very much appreciate your response.  I think I should clarify some of my comments.

My concern lies with the “perception” that it is better to remove than cap.  This is simply not technically or scientifically correct in many cases.  This preference for removal has been the cause for continuing and ongoing ecological damage to sediment-based habitat (and therefore the foodchain) at many sites around the country.  I simply believe that a “preference” for removal should be more informed.  Instead it is common for opponents of capping to use inflammatory and mis-leading statements to better serve their arguments.

A perfect example of this is the statement in your blog:

“That covering of the oil was something the Medfield Board of Selectmen had stated from the outset was the wrong approach, as removal was the proper fix, and now that the covering was only to be short term it was not only unnecessary, but it was also a waste of state monies.”

These words are first and foremost not technically or scientifically accurate, but more importantly they are clearly intended to elicit an emotional response – i.e. “covering” something up is bad – we all know that.  Obviously, whether intended or not, AquaBlok is getting painted with this brush.

I can provide you many examples of cases where removal actually increased damage to the habitat and simply exposed other nearby ecosystems to unhealthy levels of water-borne contaminants.  It is very common to see fish tissue levels of contamination increase as a result of a removal effort.

I would also take issue with the assumption that the contamination can somehow be better or more safely contained on land vs. in place.  Our products employ the same materials used to line landfills only we use 10 to 100 more and actually provide a level of protection well beyond what regulations call for in a land-fill.  When this material is protected by a properly engineered armor approach, it is as stable and isolated from exposure as it would be in a landfill or other type of engineered containment system.

As for the state’s decision, it is very likely that this decision was influenced significantly by local interests – as I’ve seen this happen many times in the past.  We have spent years doing technical presentations to State and Federal level environmental regulators (who will agree with many of the above points when we talk to them), only to see then again and again default to removal when local interests voice a very strong preference for that approach.

The irony in all of this is that one of the most common uses of AquaBlok is as a post-removal cap.  This is because it is often difficult, if not impossible to remove ALL of the residual contamination in a case like yours.  Therefore, at some point economics dictate that you must stop digging and put down a barrier material to minimize the potential of future impacts from residual contaminants.  My question is simply – why dig in the first place when it is possible to create a safe/stable engineered barrier to eliminate exposure or risk of spread of contamination?  The answer is simple – because this would make it a ‘cover up’.

AquaBlok is a technically proven product that has been evaluated by the federal EPA and used at numerous sites in the New England area.  It has been approved for use by MADEP and was most recently installed on a large scale in the New Bedford Harbor to address oil-based contaminants.  There is no reason for the Town of Medfield to view this remedy as somehow inferior to removal – from the standpoint of risk reduction or protection of our ecosystem.

An opinion is an opinion – I’m not trying to change yours.  However, when our approach is incorrectly characterized in the above manner – I feel compelled to at least defend the technical merit of the approach.

Thanks for your time.



October 26, 2011
Perhaps I’m and idealist, but I sure think it would be nice if people in a position to influence public opinion would attempt to get the education before attempting to sway a decision in a particular manner.

At this point, you’ve accomplished your goal.

For what it’s worth, my prediction on this site is that nothing will be done for years to come.  The cost to do the removal the town desires is far too expensive and DCAM will have no alternative to stall and or challenge the approach – since they will not have enough resources to pay.  It will likely end up in litigation (which may be a good outcome from a lawyers perspective).

Of course we all know that the State economy is not in much better shape, so if the faint hope is that there is funding or grants that are available from that source it will take years of applications and hard work by someone in Medfield to work this through the process – in the meantime, nothing will be done.

Bottom line – the Board of Selectmen elected to successfully fight against a funded plan (which is protective, but perhaps not idea) in exchange for uncertainty and likely years of continued exposure to contamination.  So, I guess this will be considered a victory – at least for now.

What I can’t understand is why parties with a common goal can’t just sit down together and discuss specific aspects of a funded plan to compromise and still make something good happen?  It would have been easy to do in this case.  Why is all or nothing a better outcome?


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