Grant sought to research health issues at former Lunt Silversmiths site

  • Buildings that were once the Lunt Silversmiths manufacturing plant off Federal Street in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Buildings that were once the Lunt Silversmiths manufacturing plant off Federal Street in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/17/2023 4:17:36 PM

GREENFIELD — City officials are partnering with the Lunt Neighborhood Action Group, a nonprofit with more than 100 members, to apply for a federal grant to fund epidemiological research on whether local health issues are related to chemicals at the former Lunt Silversmiths site.

The Community Environmental Justice grant available through the Environmental Protection Agency would provide up to $500,000 over three years, according to resident Susan Worgaftik, who approached Mayor Roxann Wedegartner and Health Director Jennifer Hoffman about the potential partnership. The grant would fund epidemiological research on potential cancers and other diseases associated with trichloroethylene, or TCE, the chemical of concern at the Federal Street property. TCE is a synthetic solvent that can cause adverse health effects including cancer, developmental and neurological effects, and liver toxicity, according to the EPA.

“We did some door-knocking to check in with people,” said Worgaftik, who lives in the neighborhood. “In that process, we found that there was a neighbor of mine who had the same kind of lymphoma that I have, and she lives 10 houses away. That’s a lymphoma that could have been engendered by TCE. We also had heard of a couple of people who had Parkinson’s disease in the area, which is also a disease that can be engendered by TCE. … We wanted to find out if there is an issue.”

The property in question at 298 Federal St. — 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. Until 2009, when the business closed, the site was home to a manufacturer of sterling silver spoons, forks, cups and other items.

Concern about the status of the site’s environmental cleanup was raised late last year when the property was brought before City Council to declare it as surplus and authorize a sale by the mayor.

“[With the research], we can educate people about what they need to do to get themselves tested and check out what their situations are,” Worgaftik said.

Worgaftik said there are statistical ways to determine causality as well as survey and discussion methods, and that is exactly why the nonprofit Lunt Neighborhood Action Group is interested in bringing in experts.

“We’re just a community organization,” she said. “I have no scientific training. We’re looking to the scientists to be able to tell us what we need to do.”

Hoffman — who noted the grant application comes with the support of Wedegartner, the Community Health Center of Franklin County and Valley Medical Group — said a graduate student working with the Health Department could help with research and data collection. The department also works with an epidemiologist.

“Right now, we’re putting our scope of practice together on questions to ask the community,” Hoffman said.

Wedegartner said the nonprofit’s partnership with the city will hopefully strengthen the group’s grant application to the EPA. She said she “fully supports” the group’s interest in seeking the grant.

“As long as there is time and space in Jennifer Hoffman’s schedule, we’re hoping to partner with them,” Wedegartner said.

Worgaftik said the application is due in April, with a grant announcement expected in October.

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


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