Thursday, February 26, 2015

Environmental Justice - a plea from a concerned citizen

Comments by Judith Grove at the February 10, 2015 Board of Selectmen Meeting

 A group of concerned Town Meeting Members and residents is here tonight to address the issue of Environmental Justice in Framingham.  We are a community of over 68,000 people inhabiting an area of 25 square miles and possessing a diversity of neighborhoods and people.

Most of us are familiar with the lovely neighborhood of the Framingham Centre Village Green which is bordered by the Village Hall, the History Center and colonial churches.  We look forward to the Farmer’s Market and the Concerts on the Common.

On the southeast corner of Framingham is an area about twice this size.  It is bounded by Beaver Street, Leland Street and Irving Street.  Within this densely populated area are three known toxic chemical sites. This is an Environmental Justice Neighborhood.

For over 100 years (late 1880s to 1960s) companies like Dennison Corporation, Old Colony Tar Company and Com Gas located factories there because the area possessed railroads, waterways and a ready population of workers.  These businesses brought jobs and prosperity

to Framingham.  Their owners sat on our Town Boards and donated civic buildings.  However they also polluted our land and waterways with carcinogenic toxins such as coal tar, coal tar creosote, lead, chromium, arsenic and cyanide.

The U.S. EPA defines Environmental Justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, sex, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulation and policies.

This Environmental Justice neighborhood has born an unfair burden of this pollution.  Woodrow Wilson School on Leland Street was recently polluted by General Chemical, a fairly new business in the area.  This has caused parents continued anguish about the physical and mental health of their children.

On September 9, 2014 the playground at Mary Dennison Park on Beaver Street was fenced off
because of high levels of lead.   Last month another area of imminent danger was reported to DEP.  Now their children have no playground and they need to worry about their long term exposure to lead which can affect their nervous systems and ability to learn.

On October 3, 2014 Patch reported “State to Audit a Third Toxic Site in One Framingham Neighborhood.”  Mass DEP was about to investigate a former Boston Gas site, where levels of toxins including coal tar, arsenic and cyanide had been detected.

This 20 acre property at 350 Irving Street was listed as a watch site in a 2002 Superfund report but in order for the Town to collect $2 million in back taxes an agreement was struck to give a tenant, Landscape Depot, a 3 year special permit.  They were supposed to clean up the land but they have not done so.  Their permit expired in 2009 but Landscape Depot continues to truck in old fences, decks, and tree stumps. This contaminated wood is ground into mulch which then sits on the polluted land.
Delivery of stumps and diverse wood materials to Landscape Depot site at 350 Irving Street.
Materials are ground into mulch.
Of immediate concern is that fact that mulch piles spontaneously catch fire.  Landscape Depot has no accessible water on its property so in the last four years the Framingham Fire Department has made fourteen calls to this property to put out their fires.  The toxic fumes from these fires threaten the health of the residents in this neighborhood.

In this very small Environmental Justice neighborhood residents have been assaulted by pollution on the land at their school and playground and in the air they breathe.  Landscape Depot should be denied any permits until this area is made safe.

NOTE: For related article, please go here