Air quality testing underway at homes near Lunt Silversmiths site in Greenfield

By MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer

Published: 01-30-2023 6:33 PM

GREENFIELD — Air quality testing has been completed in five of the nine homes located near the former Lunt Silversmiths property, with additional testing and information requested as part of the state Department of Environmental Protection’s expectations for the revised scope of site cleanup work.

Of the five houses that submitted to testing, trichloroethylene (TCE) was detected in one residence at a level considered “normal background,” indicating no significant risk, Mayor Roxann Wedegartner relayed in a notice to city councilors. Testing is pending for a property on Kenwood Street that hadn’t responded as of a remote meeting last month with city officials and the DEP. One property owner declined to participate in the sampling and two others have not responded. 

The air quality testing came at the request of MassDEP, which had identified an expanded list of sites for air quality testing as part of its response to the licensed site professional’s proposed scope of work for the environmental cleanup at the former Lunt Silversmiths property on Federal Street. In addition to the 20 Kenwood St. and 22 Kenwood St. properties identified by O’Reilly, Talbot & Okun (OTO), the DEP had asked the city to demonstrate, by Nov. 22, that it has requested access to seven more properties, which include two on Kenwood Street and five on Forest Avenue.

The 298 Federal St. property — which the city leases to 401 Liberty St., a limited liability company that in turn has active subleases with Behavioral Health Network and Clinical & Support Options — has an agreement that gives the company the option to purchase. Wedegartner previously explained that the city took the property for back taxes not long before 2015.

Concern about the status of the site’s environmental cleanup was raised late last year when the property was brought before the City Council to declare it as surplus and authorize the mayor’s sale of it. In particular, there is concern about contamination levels of TCE, a synthetic solvent that can cause adverse health effects including cancer, developmental and neurological effects, and liver toxicity, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

During a remote meeting on Dec. 21 that was attended by Health Director Jennifer Hoffman and Board of Health Chair Alyssa Valbona, as well as Wedegartner and her Chief of Staff Dani Letourneau, representatives from the DEP set a new deadline of March 31 for the licensed site professional, Bruce Nickelsen of OTO, to submit a revised scope of work with additional information as requested by the agency.

As part of this expanded scope of work, the DEP is requesting additional air quality testing throughout the 2022-2023 winter season as well as during 2023 when the groundwater elevation is high. The DEP is also asking the licensed site professional to identify survey locations for preferential pathway and contamination source investigation, and to expand the soil boring and groundwater monitoring well network and/or groundwater. Additionally, the revised scope of work seeks a more specific plan for groundwater and storm sewer system sampling.

“The DEP has been great,” said Susan Worgaftik, who lives on Forest Street and is a member of the Lunt Neighborhood Action Group, a nonprofit with more than 100 members. “They have come through and they’re being very thoughtful, very careful about what they’re asking for.”

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Worgaftik added, however, that she wishes there was more public involvement in the process. While the neighborhood group is kept in the loop on any communication that is sent to the mayor’s office, it is up to the group of residents to seek out all other information, such as reports.

“It would be great to have this knowledge of what’s going on,” she said.

Wedegartner said while the process has been lengthy, she’s “very glad” the DEP is paying such close attention to the property.

“I feel like they have been very thorough in their review and therefore pushing Liberty Street and OTO to be more thorough,” Wedegartner said. “I think that’s good, too, because that’s the way we’ll get the information we need to ensure the people working in the building are safe and that work will go on to ensure better monitoring of the environmental issues that are there.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.

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