Independent review highlights concerns, unanswered questions for Lunt property

By MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer

Published: 06-16-2023 5:25 PM

GREENFIELD — The licensed site professional and hydrologist hired by the Lunt Neighborhood Action Group appeared before health officials Thursday to provide an independent review of the process so far with respect to the environmental cleanup at the former Lunt Silversmiths site.

Lyons Witten was hired this year by the nonprofit, which is spearheaded by concerned residents, following receipt of a $20,000 Department of Environmental Protection Technical Assistance Grant. Speaking at a Board of Health meeting Thursday, Witten highlighted areas of concern or questions that still remain unanswered, including if and to what degree groundwater contaminated by trichloroethylene, or TCE, is entering public storm drains.

“Investigation into that is barely even started, let alone complete,” Witten said. “There’s some effort in the current scope of work to address that. I’m not sure it’s adequate. It needs to be more robust, partially because there are two storm drains in Kenwood on the north side of the street and on the south side, two separate pipes. Two separate sets of catch basins.”

Based on monitoring wells around the Lunt property, where levels are most elevated compared to elsewhere in the neighborhood, TCE detection levels “miraculously disappear before they cross into private property,” according to Witten’s analysis, leading him to believe the groundwater is discharging into the storm drain system. Levels appear to indicate that the “vast majority” of the contaminant is leaving the Lunt property and migrating west along Kenwood Street, to Davis and then Chapman streets.

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. Mayor Roxann 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. These concerns from residents inspired the formation of the Lunt Neighborhood Action Group nonprofit.

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“I’m here on their behalf, reviewing work that’s been done and that is proposed to be done in an effort to steer it in a better, more comprehensive direction,” Witten explained to board members Thursday evening.

Other questions that remain include the extent of contamination relating to air quality testing that was recently done in residents’ homes. Witten also argued for more attention to be given to studying the existence of dense nonaqueous phase liquids, which are hazardous organic liquids — such as dry cleaning fluids, fuel oil and gasoline — that do not dissolve in water.

“The last point I’ll make is that concentration in the storm drain does not follow the pattern of being [at the highest level] closest to the Lunt property and decreasing as they go downstream, downpipe,” Witten said. “There are some higher elevated concentrations near, or adjacent to the center of the three ballfields along Kenwood … on the north side.”

Witten also emphasized that some of the data included in the scope of work for the current licensed site professional, Bruce Nickelsen of O’Reilly, Talbot & Okun (OTO), is 10 years old.

Questions were also raised about the impact on the nearby ballfields.

“What the data indicates is that fairly contaminated water is leaving the Lunt property, getting into the right of way at Kenwood and intercepted by the storm drain,” Witten said. “That’s all well and good if it’s being collected there and treated, but it’s not. It’s simply being allowed to go down the storm drain, which doesn’t follow the MassDEP rules of remediation of contaminants.”

He added that, in addition to TCE, other contaminants should be monitored for, including PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

After Witten answered a few technical questions, resident Glen Ayers, who initiated the petition launching the process to designate the former Lunt Silversmiths property as a Public Involvement Plan (PIP) site, and subsequently an audit of the site cleanup process, thanked him for the presentation. Ayers also expressed frustration with the current PIP process for its lack of public involvement, particularly with the current licensed site professional.

“We feel now that we have an independent LSP, we should be able to get that process started,” Ayers said. “We’d like to work with the [Board of Health] to make sure the community has the right amount of involvement in this process. I certainly don’t feel we’re fighting anyone, that we’re adversaries in this. We want to see the site cleaned up and made safe for the community, especially the neighbors.”

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

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