AP NEWS

Olin Site Cleanup Named a Top Priority for EPA

April 4, 2019

WILMINGTON -- There may be a light at the end of the tunnel for those working to clean the contaminated Olin Chemical site.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it had added the site to its Emphasis List. The site’s placement on the list means it will be a top priority for the administration. It is one of 15 sites on the list and is the only site in Massachusetts.

“Wilmington will be safer and healthier, and its economy will be stronger, when the Olin site is restored,” U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton said in a press release issued by his office. “We got this designation thanks to the strong cooperation between local businesses and leaders at every level -- clearly the EPA saw the united front within our community to fix this problem.”

Located at 51 Eames St. and totaling 53 acres, the site was home to a facility that made specialty chemicals for rubber and plastics until 1986 when it closed, according to the EPA website. Waste disposal practices caused contamination both on and off-site. In 2002 the town had to close contaminated drinking water supply wells, and in 2003, had to close municipal supply wells in the Maple Meadow Brook aquifer, the EPA website said.

“We have residents in that area that have to have bottled water,” said Selectmen Chairman Kevin Caira. “That’s not acceptable.”

The town has been working to clean up the site for over 20 years. The hope is to attract new businesses once the site is clean, according to Caira.

“The town is pleased that the EPA has put us on their emphasis site list nationally to address this issue and get it moving,” Caira said.

In 2006, the site became a Superfund site. Having added the site to its Emphasis List, the EPA has identified fall 2019 as the target for bringing forward a remediation plan for public comment, according to Moulton’s District Director Rick Jackious.

“The expectation is that a formal remediation game plan, if you will, will be arrived at by the end of the year,” said Town Manager Jeffrey Hull.

New England Transrail has been pursuing the Olin Chemical site for the past 15 years, according to Hull. The company has proposed redeveloping the site where waste materials would be transferred from trains to trucks and then shipped to areas in the region.

Hull said the town has “adamantly opposed” the proposal due the risk associated the operation and a desire to clean the site before it is redeveloped.

In fall 2018, GFI Partners -- which has connections to NET -- proposed using the site for warehousing. According to Hull, there has been no further movement on the proposal since.

The concern is that any set redevelopment plan, like NET’s proposal, could influence the EPA’s remediation plan.

Hull said the town wants any redevelopment plan to work around the remediation plan, not the other way around.

Both Hull and state Rep. Dave Robertson called for the EPA’s continued due diligence as it moves forward.

“This is the culmination of literally years of work, debate and cooperation by the town, state and federal governments,” Robertson said in Moulton’s press release. “I hope that the work proceeds quickly, and I will be sure to watch closely with Congressman Moulton to ensure the cleanup is not rushed, but rather to the standards that Wilmington residents deserve.”