Alewife Study Group > W. R. Grace site > community feedback > Oct 26 2000, comment on W. R. Grace utility trench Search 

Two comment letters
to Haley & Aldrich
on W. R. Grace utility trench

See also: Opportunity for public comment


October 26, 2000

William W. Beck, Jr., LSP
Senior Vice president
Haley & Aldrich
465 Medford Street
Suite 2200
Boston, MA 02129-1400

Re: Cambridge
62 Whittemore Ave.
RTN 3-0277
RTN 3-17014
Utility Trench Excavation Release Abatement Measure (RAM) Plan

Dear Mr. Beck:

Thank you for forwarding a copy of the above referenced plan to our neighborhood.

We have taken the liberty of hand-delivering a copy of your plan to the USEPA Region 1 Administrator, who was surprised to learn of its existence. Both you and your client were remiss in not informing neighbors and especially abutters of this intention many months ago. In addition, both you and your client were apparently unaware that you had neglected to inform the USEPA of your plans in the midst of their examination at your site. In the future, we would request that you inform neighbors fully and well in advance of the initiation of these sorts of actions as and when they are being contemplated. Acting as if both the USEPA and a large and dense abutting neighborhood has no interest in this sort of undertaking does little to advance you or your client's standing. We would remind you that exposure to asbestos contamination is not a trifling matter, and despite specious arguments to the contrary, asbestos fiber is a known human carcinogen.

As you know, this site is substantially contaminated with various forms of asbestos. These varieties include amosite, chrysotile, crocidolite, actinolite, and tremolite. A conservative estimate of the total quantity of asbestos at the site is between 600,000 and 1.2 million pounds of loose fiber in soil. There is ample justification to hold that PLM analysis is not adequate for measurement of soils bearing such documented contamination.

As a result of the seriousness of the contamination at this site and your client's reluctance to accurately measure its dispersal two decades ago, potentially harmful exposures have already occurred. In addition, much valuable time has been expended subsequently by reluctant neighbors with respect to securing a more credible level of compliance with Massachusetts and Federal regulations.

When the grid pattern was proposed almost two years ago, and presented to the general public as the Final Asbestos Sampling Plan (FASP), it was taken on good faith that the northern end-line of the sampling grid was established a full 200 ft. from the property line because the presence of existing buildings made it necessary. It was assumed that the presence of these buildings precluded any sampling within this corridor.

This contention has been nullified by your latest unverified sampling within this 200-ft. corridor. Because you have engaged in additional sampling within this unmeasured area, the Final Asbestos Sampling Plan can no longer be considered final. Had your client's intention to disturb soil in this area been made plain originally, (when your plan was presented for public review and comment), there would most certainly have been a demand to include this area within your sampling protocol.

Unwillingness to be candid and forthright about this matter leads neighbors to question intentions. Without an opportunity to verify results in this area through split sample analysis, the neighborhood is left with no other choice but to consider your data set unacceptable.

Given these circumstances, could you explain the following:

Since there are so many questions about the intention, timetable, larger implications and lack of information regarding this report, we are requesting a formal meeting for the purposes of general clarification. In addition, the neighborhood has yet to be introduced to you as the new and presumably current LSP. It has been approximately two years since a public meeting was held. Such a meeting is not only appropriate and necessary but arguably in the best interest of all. In the past, such meetings have resulted in better plans, better understanding and therefore better relations.

We would therefore recommend that you amend the "Final Asbestos Sampling Plan (FASP)" by extending the grid to include testing with verification (split samples for Alewife Neighbors, Inc. and the City of Cambridge).

We would further request that you include the neighbors in any further testing related to intended soil disturbance. Our obligation as TAG grant recipients within the PIP process requires that we provide this sort of information to the neighborhood. MADEP holds us to a rigorous standard in the administration of these allocations. We have no choice but to uphold what they have set forth. In the absence of verifiable data, we will inform neighbors and abutters that what you claim in your report cannot be substantiated.

It is entirely possible that this circumstance is a result of building and/or development changes that may have been unforeseeable by the potentially responsible party (PRP) at the time that the FASP was presented for public review. But if this is so, this sort of circumstance is easily remedied by amending the "Final Asbestos Sampling Plan (FASP)" accordingly. There is no better vehicle to achieve this purpose appropriately than a public meeting, which is provided for in MCP regulations. Such a meeting is in both you and your client's best interest.

It will help to make the process of explaining your client's intentions more inclusive and thereby more believable. Operating largely in secret defeats this. Moreover, it undermines the very authority vested in the LSP program through its Rules of Professional Conduct which in its preamble purports to "safeguard the public health, safety, welfare and the environment and establish and maintain a standard of professional integrity."

It is stated in 309 CMR 4.03 that:
"A licensed site professional shall hold paramount public health, safety, welfare, and environment in the performance of professional services."
None of these objectives are achieved through the proposal outlined in the document entitled Utility Trench Excavation Release Abatement Measure (RAM) Plan/Asbestos Soil Management Plan. They are certainly not achieved through secrecy and exclusion.

Sincerely,

Joseph Joseph
20 Kassul Park
Cambridge, MA 02140
(617) 354-3295

Cc

US Senator Edward M. Kennedy
US Senator John Kerry
State Senator Steven Tolman
State Senator Robert Havern
State Representative Alice Wolf
State Representative Timothy Toomey
MADEP Northeast Region Administrator, Patricia Donahue
USEPA Regional Administrator, Mindy Lubber
Cambridge City Council
Mario Favorito, W.R. Grace


October 26, 2000

William W. Beck, Jr., LSP
Senior Vice president
Haley & Aldrich
465 Medford Street
Suite 2200
Boston, MA 02129-1400

Re: Cambridge
62 Whittemore Ave.
RTN 3-0277
RTN 3-17014
Utility Trench Excavation Release Abatement Measure (RAM) Plan

Dear Mr. Beck:

After further review of the above mentioned report and in consideration of your client's desire to disturb soils in the most contaminated section of the site (Zone I), I would like to add the following comments.

In my comments on the MASP received by you on October 6, 1998 in Appendix A, page 22, I requested the following:

We would like comprehensive sampling for asbestos across the site, and would like Grace to consult with the DEP and community in revising the plan to include sampling in Zone 1 .. All Zones should have a spacing of 35' on center, as is the case with Zone 4.
Your response simply restated the deficiency pointed out to you and it failed to address the request directly.

On page 4 of the Final Asbestos Management Plan (FASP) presented to the public nearly two years ago, with respect to this same Zone 1 you stated:
This area is currently the developed portion of the property controlled by W.R. Grace Construction Products Division and one Alewife Center. It is generally covered by building, pavement and landscaping materials, and there is no risk of exposure to underlying soils. No intrusive activities are planned nor will they occur without the knowledge of Grace or Spaulding & Slye (One Alewife Center management company) personnel thereby limiting possible near-term exposure of the underlying fill materials.
On Page 6 you stated that:
Zone 1 - This Zone is covered by either buildings, blacktop or landscaped areas, and Poses no exposure risk to asbestos in soil.
On Page 7 or Appendix A you stated that:
Because Zone 1 is covered with buildings, pavement or landscaping, there is no exposure risk to asbestos in soil in that area.
On Page 12 of Appendix A you stated that:
Because Zone 1 is covered with either buildings, pavement or landscaping, there is no exposure risk to asbestos in soil in that area.
Taken together, these statements affirm a point of view that is now erroneous. Your most current plan intends to do precisely the opposite of what you have insisted upon on pages 4, 6, 7, and 12(Appendix A). In excavating soil in this zone, as you now intend to do, you will by definition be creating an exposure risk. If this information had been forthcoming in your original FASP, the request originally posed and referred to at the beginning of this letter would have been more difficult for you to ignore. In mischaracterizing your report of two years ago as a 'final plan', instead of a 'current plan', you led neighbors and others to believe that your claims and responses were credible.

As was stated in the previous letter dated October 26, 2000 to you, it is entirely understandable that W.R. Grace may need to alter its development plans. But if this is so, a public meeting is needed to discuss this change given that the former FASP was so dependent upon a previous plan that did not contemplate this sort of excavation within this area of Zone1.

In addition to the aforesaid, I have asked repeatedly (since 1995) for you to explain why Building #28 (North side of Whittemore Ave.) is omitted from your testing protocol. This building has been used by W.R. Grace for many years. Additionally, it abuts residential property along Whittemore where small children and elderly people live. Your response over two years ago to this question on page 22 (Appendix A) was:
Grace is currently reviewing available information on Building #28.
This of course does not answer the question. And since you have had two years to gather "available information on Building # 28", could you please now answer the question.

Sincerely,

Joseph Joseph
20 Kassul Park
Cambridge, MA 02140
(617) 354-3295

Cc

US Senator Edward M. Kennedy
US Senator John Kerry
State Senator Steven Tolman
State Senator Robert Havern
State Representative Alice Wolf
State Representative Timothy Toomey
MADEP Northeast Region Administrator, Patricia Donahue
USEPA Regional Administrator, Mindy Lubber
Cambridge City Council
Mario Favorito, W.R. Grace


Contact the Alewife Study Group, North Cambridge Massachusetts, by email at information@alewife.org