Microwave Development Labs Site Cleanup Project and Hillside Implications
The Needham Heights Neighborhood Association hosted a meeting at the Needham Public Library on January 7, 2013 to get an update on the hazardous waste cleanup in the Heights. Steven Johnson, Deputy Regional Director of the Massachusetts DEP Bureau of Waste Site Cleanup was there to explain the background about the site, and future plans.
In 1985, state officials detected Trichloroethylene, or TCE, at a property near Hillside School, and determined that the source came from chemicals at MDL that went down drains, leaked into aquifers and formed cesspools, Johnson explained. The TCE, a &rquot;risk driver&lquot; chemical, traveled downhill through the groundwater and passed beneath Hillside Elementary School. Because of its chemical properties, the TCE was drawn up toward the building and evaporated into the building's indoor air. In 1989, MassDEP officials installed a ventilation system into the school that drew in the TCE and released the chemicals outdoors where they disperse into the air and are not harmful. Hillside Elementary uses this mitigation system to this day, and the school is tested for indoor air quality twice a year, officials said.
Johnson said that there was still TCE underground at the Hillside School site, and would continue to be for many years. Construction at the site would require some remediation of the soil and or water beneath the school, which would add approximately $1 million dollars to the construction costs. MDL Site Project Manager, Rodene Lamkin, said that the Mass DEP had already looked into creating a barrier at the site similar to the one used on Central Avenue, but had determined that this would be too costly and would not be adequately effective. Johnson said the state is currently negotiating with MDL to continue to pay for the air quality monitoring costs, and that &rquot;We'd like the responsible party to pay for whatever has to be done&lquot; regarding addressing the construction/pollution concerns.
There is considerable interest in building a new school at the site. Current Principal, Michael Kascak, stated that the Hillside community needs a new state of the art building. School Committee member Michael Greis, said the state has opened up an application period from Jan. 9 to April 10, during which the School Committee and the Board of Selectmen plan to finalize a statement of interest.
Among the over thirty people in attendance were State Representative Denise Garlick, Needham Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick, Superintendant of Schools Daniel Gutekanst, Needham Health Department Director Janice Berns, Needham PPBC Chairman Steven Popper and Selectmen Matthew Borrelli and Moe Handel.
A recent Hillside Environmental Report to the School Committee on this subject can be found here.