Worcester Telegram and Gazette Staff
It was taken out of service in the 1980s but was used as recently as 2010 during a major pipeline break in Weston. At the time, it was used for three days.
DEP documents indicate some leakage of coal tar into the massive brick-lined pipe built in the late 1800s.
“In April 2004, an IRA Plan Modification was submitted to MassDEP proposing measures to mitigate seepage in the Sudbury Aqueduct using a 700-foot interceptor trench and to excavate coal tar impacted sediments from on-Site wetlands, followed by bioremediation. The plan modification was never implemented,” the document states.
The document went on to say that in July 2005, assessments concluded that a "'Condition of Readily Apparent Harm' existed within wetland and adjacent upland areas north and south of the Sudbury Aqueduct.”
MWRA Executive Director Frederick A. Laskey said last week that during the water main break in 2010 when the aqueduct was put back into service, the authority did water-quality testing and did not find any coal tar.
“We have gone inside and looked. There is evidence of decades ago some (coal tar) got in and has adhered to a small portion of the aqueduct and is very hard and very brittle. There was minimal leaching because of it. That is an old brick aqueduct and there is a certain amount of (groundwater) infiltration into it,” he said.
He added, “It is minute amounts that come in and is quickly diluted to the point it can’t be detected.”
But Mr. Laskey emphasized, “We feel very strongly about cleaning that up. We don’t believe there is an imminent threat to the aqueduct but it is not good to have hazardous material in close proximity.”
He added, “There is no good purpose to leaving that stuff (coal tar) in the ground.”
Although the MWRA chief does not believe the emergency aqueduct has been seriously compromised, the integrity of the structure may be in question.
According to an easement granted to Commonwealth Gas in 1982 to allow a permanent right-of-way over the aqueduct, construction of a bridge was required. The easement states, “a suitable reinforced concrete slab with at least one (1) foot clearance between the bottom of the concrete slab and the top of the aqueduct” was required.
NOTE: to access April 15, 1982 agreement document, go to the Massachusetts Registry of Deeds, South Middlesex to Book 14584, Page 511.
DEP and MWRA officials say they do not know if such a structure exists. DEP officials said they did not know of the bridge requirement.
The significance of whether one exists is important because Landscape Depot operates on the site daily with heavy equipment crossing the aqueduct easement.
The Telegram & Gazette last week questioned both agencies about whether the bridge was ever installed.
Mr. Laskey said, “Frankly, our records and people’s memories, we are not sure there is a bridge there. We will go out and scrape back and confirm that the bridge was put in place.
“We can’t find any such records. It is kind of off the beaten path for us.”
He added, “If we find the bridging is not there, then we will require the landowner have that installed.”
Steven Remsberg, MWRA general counsel, on Friday said that at the water authority's request, Eversource, the landowner, has applied for a permit to dig around the easement to determine if the required bridging was ever constructed because there is nothing apparent above ground.
"It is possible there is some structure beneath the ground," he said.
For 15 years, Landscape Depot has been using heavy equipment to cross the aqueduct. Earth-moving equipment from 45,000-pound wheel loaders and 80,000-pound dump trailers and trucks use the site daily.
Asked when the aqueduct was last inspected for structural integrity, Mr. Laskey said it was eight to 10 years ago.
“The aqueduct integrity is fine,” Mr. Laskey asserted.
Framingham Town Meeting Member Judy Grove is frustrated by the toxic soup on the south side of town. She has been an advocate for cleanup.
|Framingham town meeting members William LaBarge and Judith Grove stand in front of Landscape Depot in Framingham. Telegram and Gazette Staff, Paul Kapteyn|
Another town meeting member, William J. LaBarge, said, “I am not convinced how they can be cleaning up the land when they have 60 to 70 percent of the land covered with some objects - motor vehicles, and stockpiles of one sort or another.”
Mr. LaBarge, who lives nearby, often walks by the site and said he can smell the coal tar in the air and added, “I just don’t think they should be allowing anybody to be on that site because of the toxins on the site that oozes up. Eversource either knows or should know that land is dangerous for people to be on.”