Leominster Health Officials Seek Natural Gas Impact Studies
LEOMINSTER -- City health officials want Gov. Charlie Baker to consider requiring health impact studies be performed before any natural gas pipelines in the state are created or expanded in the future.
The Board of Health decided Wednesday to send the request to the governor at the urging of Dr. Stephen Jones, a retired public health physician with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who made a presentation to the board on the possible harmful effects of natural gas exposure.
Though board members noted Jones’ health concerns, particularly his claims connecting natural gas usage and respiratory illness, Wednesday’s discussion focused primarily on local issues with recent natural gas leaks.
“We had an odor in the (City Hall) parking lot for quite a while and we really had to push to get it fixed,” said Health Director Chris Knuth, referring to a leak that National Grid, Leominster’s utility provider, worked to fix at the corner of West and School streets this summer.
Board member Wendy Wiiks said that leak, which is near Monument Square in downtown Leominster, remains an issue for the city.
“Last Saturday there was an odor of gas everywhere during the (Johnny Appleseed Festival) and we had to get National Grid back out to work on it,” she said. “Every day we get people saying they smell gas in the parking lot.”
Based on last year’s number of confirmed gas leaks in Leominster, Jones said the number of leaks the city is facing in the “low middle or middle” of the numbers seen in communities throughout the state.
According to Jones, 75 Massachusetts towns and cities, including Boston, Springfield and Worcester, as well as local communities like Ashburnham and Townsend, have already sent similar requests to Baker, asking for independent health impact assessments be required prior to any natural gas infrastructure project being authorized.
Wednesday’s Board of Health meeting also provided an update on the city’s efforts to address erosion at the Mechanic Street landfill. The City Council approved an appropriation of $243,000 for repairs on Monday, however Knuth said an additional $40,000 will likely be needed for the work.
Knuth also reported that an unpleasant odor that residents living in the neighborhood of Carbon Composites Inc. had been blaming on the manufacturer has since been addressed by the company.
“They do have someone working on that now and I think they have a handle on it,” he said.
Follow Peter Jasinski on Twitter @PeterJasinski53.