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Olin Remediation Plan Ready by Fall

Emma R. Murphy emurphy@lowellsun.comMay 29, 2019

WILMINGTON —The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expects to have an intermediate remediation plan for the contaminated Olin site this fall, but is still investigating the extent of groundwater contamination.

EPA representatives updated the Board of Selectmen on the Olin site Tuesday night.

Located at 51 Eames St., Olin Chemical was a 53-acre facility that produced 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, prompting the town to close contaminated drinking water wells and municipal supply wells in the Maple Meadow Brook aquifer.

In April, the EPA added the Olin site to its Emphasis List, making the site a top priority. Having the site on the list means support from higher levels within the agency, EPA Section Chief Lynne Jennings told the board Tuesday.

That additional support may come in handy, Jennings said, as the EPA has disagreed with Olin on a variety of issues. Olin is contesting the EPA’s finding that the contamination plume has spread.

A recent report that Olin submitted to the EPA also fell short, according to Jennings.

The report, submitted in May, outlined remediation options for a number of issues including contaminated groundwater. The purpose of the report was to identify a wide range of options for the EPA to review, but was missing options which the EPA had specifically asked Olin to study, according to Jennings.

As a result, the EPA will most likely “develop a set of alternatives in concert with” Olin’s report, Jennings said.

The EPA plans to provide an interim remediation plan this fall and open it for public comment. The plan would be considered interim and not final, as the EPA still has to finish investigating the extent of the groundwater contamination.

The interim plan would include remedies for residents on Cook Avenue who have been using bottled water for years as a result of the contaminated water wells.

The EPA’s final plan will address the question of restoring the aquifer to its complete water capability. It is a complex question and restoring it to complete capability may not be possible, Jennings said.

The Olin site is one of the most complex sites in the region due to the groundwater, Jennings said.

The EPA has also had numerous meetings with GFI Partners which is interesting in redeveloping the site. GFI’s interest has sparked concern in town due to its connection to New England Transrail, which had been interested in redeveloping and using the site for transferring hazardous materials from trains to trucks for shipping across the region.

According to Jennings, GFI’s latest proposal has changed and does not include using the rail line for hazardous materials.

The EPA is open to redevelopment of the site so long as the redevelopment does not interfere with the remedy, Jennings said.

Town Manager Jeffrey Hull stressed that remediation needed to be top priority.

“What I don’t want to see happen — even though the intent may be otherwise — is the new development forces remediation to work around development,” Hull said. “It should be the other way around.”

Any redevelopment would also need to go through the local permitting process.

Following Jennings’ presentation, several board members expressed their frustration with Olin and urged the EPA to continue pushing.

“Olin is dragging their feet, take them to the fire,” Selectman Michael McCoy said.

Follow Emma R. Murphy on Twitterr @MurphReports.

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