Petition seeks more public involvement in cleanup of former Lunt Silversmith property in Greenfield

  • In an effort to better involve the public in the environmental remediation process, as many as 32 residents have signed a petition seeking to begin the process for designating the former Lunt Silversmith property at 298 Federal St. in Greenfield, pictured, as a Public Involvement Plan (PIP) site. Staff File Photo/Max Marcus

  • Part of the former Lunt Silversmith property at 298 Federal St. in Greenfield. Staff File Photo/Max Marcus

Staff Writer
Published: 12/1/2021 7:30:30 PM
Modified: 12/1/2021 7:29:57 PM

GREENFIELD — In an effort to better involve the public in the environmental remediation process, as many as 32 residents — including five city councilors — have signed a petition seeking to begin the process of designating the former Lunt Silversmith property as a Public Involvement Plan (PIP) site.

The petition, which was presented to Mayor Roxann Wedegartner on Wednesday morning, was initiated by resident Glen Ayers, a former health agent with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, out of concern for the environmental safety of the 298 Federal St. property.

“I think the public involvement process will make it a lot easier to find out what’s going on and will give everyone a chance to review the process as the various phases of the cleanup occur,” Ayers said.

“It’s a formal process, whereas just having the City Council debate things at City Council meetings — that didn’t seem like it was going to lead anywhere. Sending it back to a subcommittee is going to do about the same.”

Wedegartner said Wednesday she is waiting to hear from the city’s lawyer regarding the proper response to the petition, noting the legal obligation the city has, given that the property has been leased with an option to buy for several years.

“It is also subject to environmental cleanup, which has also been going and being conducted properly, with the proper number of reports filed,” she said. “That process hasn’t ended. It’s about midway through.”

The former Lunt Silversmith property became a topic of discussion in October when City Council first considered a motion to declare the property as surplus property and authorize the mayor’s sale. The motion, however, was tabled after Precinct 3 Councilor Virginia “Ginny” DeSorgher urged councilors to vote “no” until remediation issues are addressed. In November, City Council voted to take the motion from the table, and to send the matter to the Economic Development Subcommittee for further review and discussion.

Since then, the city has submitted an initial Release Abatement Measure (RAM) transmittal form to the state, according to the government agency. A RAM is a voluntary remedial measure taken to totally clean up small problems, or reduce the magnitude of larger problems. The city last submitted an initial RAM form in September 2017, which was filed as completed in April 2020.

The property, which has been leased to 401 Liberty LLC since 2015, has an agreement that gives the tenant the option to purchase. The Springfield-based LLC subleases the property to the Behavioral Health Network and Clinical & Support Options (CSO).

Wedegartner previously explained that the city took the property in a tax taking, and therefore — acknowledging her memo before the November meeting indicating she withdrew her request for City Council approval — is allowed to sell the property without council approval.

She said the city has a licensed site professional, O’Reilly, Talbot & Okun Associates Inc., which in addition to completing past remediation of the site, conducts inspections every few years, as is legally required.

But residents and city councilors alike expressed concern at last month’s City Council meeting over O’Reilly, Talbot & Okun Associates’ use of the commercial/industrial threshold for measurements, rather than the residential threshold.

For comparison, the state Department of Environmental Protection’s threshold for residential indoor levels of trichloroethylene (TCE) is 0.4 micrograms per cubic meter, while the commercial/industrial indoor threshold is 1.8 micrograms per cubic meter.

“I think this situation is going to require at least a second opinion and maybe a third, because I have some questions about the way things are being portrayed,” Ayers said.

The Public Involvement Plan process is outlined by the Massachusetts Contingency Plan, a program of MassDEP. According to MassDEP’s requirements, once the petition is received by the mayor, the city is required to respond to the petitioners within 20 calendar days to confirm the designation as a PIP site. Within 60 days of responding to the petitioners, a draft PIP plan must be prepared and presented at a public meeting, along with an update on the site’s status.

A public comment period is also expected to follow the public meeting before a plan is finalized, according to MassDEP.

“A Public Involvement Plan process will give it more structure so there is a real process for making decisions,” Ayers said. “We need to have a much more inclusive, open, transparent process.”

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


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