COVID-19 Pandemic Delays General Chemical Cleanup Until Spring 2021

FRAMINGHAM – The coronavirus pandemic will delay the cleanup of the contaminated former General Chemical site on Leland Street in Framingham, announced the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection today, May 20.

On February 6, during a public hearing at Wilson Elementary School located adjacent to the cleanup site in District 9, MassDEP informed the public and city officials the construction phase of the cleanup would begin in March 2020 and continue to mid-June, when start-up of the in situ thermal treatment system would commence.

But on March 15, 2020, Governor Baker issued an emergency order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

As a result of that order, and due to other ongoing issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, MassDEP has delayed the construction phase of the General Chemical site cleanup to avoid placing our employees and contractors at risk, the agency told city officials today.

Unfortunately, given these ongoing risks MassDEP is informing the community that the cleanup activities at the General Chemical property will be on hold until the Spring of 2021, said MassDEP in a letter to Framingham officials today, May 20.

“The uncertainties and risks associated with COVID-19 warrant
a prudent and gradual return to our normal operations,” said MassDEP.

The decision to push the start of cleanup activities is informed by
three main factors:

  1. MassDEP needs to ensure the protection of its employees and contractors during the cleanup at this site. At this point, guidance on the appropriate level of personal protective equipment and other protective measures is still evolving.
  2. There is no current exposure to the contaminants at the General Chemical site. This is confirmed through semi-annual testing of groundwater and surface water at key locations. MassDEP will continue with the semi-annual testing to ensure that contaminant conditions have not changed.
  3. If site work re-started immediately, the cleanup would extend to mid-to-late November, well into the fall school year.

As discussed during the February 6 public meeting, and consistent with the City’s preference, MassDEP’s goal is to conduct the in situ thermal treatment remedy for the General Chemical site over the summer months when there are less students and faculty present.

“While it is disappointing that the partial cleanup of the General Chemical site is being moved to next spring, MassDEP remains committed to conducting this clean up and the funding remains in place to do so,” wrote MassDEP to city leaders.

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