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“Don’t Cap It, Clean It”

By now most South Coast residents have driven by the many red “Don’t Cap It, Clean It” signs.  The message appears simple, but the questions surrounding the issue are complex.

Boston Environmental Corp.’s absurd proposal to cap the old Cecil Smith dump on Old Fall River Rd with an estimated 1.7 million tons of undisclosed Comm97 soils has brought many serious questions to light.  Why is the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection now interested in capping this site after ignoring it for so long? Why has the same DEP failed to issue any enforcement on the property owner over the years? How legitimate are BEC’s uncertified financial figures? Why hasn’t an independent complete site assessment been done on this property to ascertain the current level of contamination before proposing a plan?  What protective rationale exists for dumping a ludicrous quantity of contaminated soils on our aquifer, near many private wells and within a four mile radius of town wells? How can the minimal testing done this past May be sufficient to proceed forward? Why would BEC be free of any responsibility in the event of a capping failure? Why hasn’t the DEP rejected this proposal yet based solely on the tremendous widespread opposition as they have done in other communities such as Attleboro?   Ultimately, is BEC’s proposal just a lucrative cover up to rid the State of a large quantity of contaminated soils?

These questions and more have been raised for months by area residents, including SouthCoast Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow (ScACT).  As a member of the Alliance I was pleased to read the August 20, 2013 letter from Dartmouth’s Town Counsel to the Massachusetts DEP (entire letter can be found at www.NoPollutionSolution.org). Town Counsel meticulously expressed in more than ten pages the Town’s concerns, reasons why the proposal should be rejected and the many legal actions he could take should the State approve the proposal.  He discussed areas of financial misrepresentation, use of contaminated materials, unlawful landfill expansion, inadequate testing, DEP’s potential negligence and more. Also Town Counsel strongly stated his readiness to appeal DEP’s approval of the proposal, along with various local enforcement actions the Town would take against the property owner and BEC, utilizing the powers of the Board of Health and Zoning Enforcement Officer.

Town Officials, including the Conservation Commission, have shown courage in taking this powerful stand in protecting our community from becoming an unnecessary dumping ground for which I applaud them.  Much is at stake, from protecting our water supply that feeds into Westport, to the road infrastructure and health of residents affected by the proposed truck route beginning in New Bedford.  Many thanks go out to others who have voiced concern, such as the Westport River Watershed Alliance, Westport Select Board, Buzzards Bay Coalition and City of New Bedford.

To demonstrate a final act of public opposition prior to DEP rendering a decision, ScACT invites all SouthCoast residents to join together in a Boston March on Tuesday October 29 to the DEP Headquarters.   The event will include a brief walk down Winter Street to meet with Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell and local media.  Bus transportation is available for a nominal fee of $5-10 depending on number of participants. Reservations are recommended as seating is limited.  Departure is at 9am, returning at 3:30pm. For more information or to reserve your bus seat please call (508) 995-0805 or email southcoast.act@gmail.com.  There is still time to make a difference.

Gloria Bancroft, founding member of SouthCoast Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow (ScACT).