Tuesday, March 17, 2015

More contamination in Southside

Lawsuit claims Framingham salvage yard released pollutants
By Scott O'Connell/Daily News Staff
March 17, 2015

An environmental group is suing a local metal recycling facility it accuses of polluting local waterways, court records show.

Clean Water Action filed the civil suit against Framingham Salvage Co. in U.S. District Court on Monday. The Boston-based advocacy organization is seeking a court order that stops the company from releasing pollutants into nearby water sources; forces it to restore the allegedly damaged water bodies; and requires it to pay civil penalties for violations.

Rear of Framingham Salvage Company
Not a pretty view for residents living on Morton Street

On Tuesday, however, both sides said they were already working together to reach a resolution on those issues.

According to a copy of the suit, Clean Water Action claims the 120 Waverly St. scrap metal recycling yard has been discharging stormwater runoff into the town’s municipal storm drain system and into Beaver Dam Brook, “the largest tributary of Lake Cochituate.” The organization specifically claims

that runoff contains levels of aluminum, copper and zinc that exceed what’s allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency under the facility’s stormwater permit. In excessive amounts, those metals “are toxic to fish, aquatic plants, and other aquatic life,” the suit says, and “may also be hazardous to human life if they enter the water supply."

Beaver Dam Brook becomes a toxic conveyor of sludge
 and chemicals along area of Morton Street and Taralli Terrace
The runoff also had higher than allowed levels of iron, which can also be harmful to water-dwelling organisms and cause “aesthetically objectionable conditions in water bodies by making the water appear rust colored,” Clean Water Action said.

Framingham Salvage’s attorney, David Rosenblatt, declined to talk about the specific claims in the suit, but said the company has not had any problems with environmental compliance.

“The company takes its environmental responsibility very seriously,” he said. “They’re working with Clean Water Action to reach a resolution on this matter, and expect they will do so.”

Becky Smith, campaigns director for Clean Water Action's Massachusetts division, also said the sides were communicating with each other in the hopes of resolving the organization's issues.

"Hopefully in the end, what that looks like is the company comes into compliance," she said.

Smith said Clean Water Action targeted Framingham Salvage as part of a statewide citizen enforcement campaign aimed at uncovering violators of the EPA's water regulations. The organization has filed lawsuits against several other companies as well as a result of that effort, she said.

In a letter to the company last September, Clean Water Action’s New England regional co-director, Cindy Luppi, and the organization’s lawyer, Nora Chorover, said Framingham Salvage “has had a pattern of exceeding EPA benchmark limits” for regulated metals since the company submitted a notice of intent to the agency for a stormwater permit in 2012. In particular, the lawsuit claims heavy machinery and processing equipment kept at the Waverly Road facility have leaked oil, diesel fuel and other contaminants, which are washed into local waterways during storms.

Clean Water Action also alleges Framingham Salvage has not been submitting annual site inspection and quarterly monitoring reports to the EPA as required by the agency.

The EPA's online database as of Tuesday showed the company had no violations during the agency's last inspection in 2010, and that subsequent compliance monitoring the past three years also yielded no violations. But several categories on Framingham Salvage's facility report page in the database also say "no data returned," including two categories related to tracking releases of pollutants.