Monday, October 31, 2011

Environmental Ironies Pop Up In Framingham MA

Environmental contamination in Framingham MA
In perhaps what only can be called insane irony, a chemical processing company in Framingham, Massachusetts, that is part of a family of companies billed as a "fully permitted, state-of-the-art hazardous waste management" group, has allegedly been involved with a plume of contamination in the Leland Street area of that city.

General Chemical Corp. is one of five companies in the Clean Venture/Cycle Chem group busily providing environmental cleanup services. General Chemical Corp. (by the way, there are several companies using this name), is a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, or RCRA, Part "B" treatment, storage and disposal company, so it can handle some pretty toxic items including solvents, polychlorinated biphenyls, acids, wastewater sludge, pesticides and even metal-bearing waste, according to this report in The MetroWest Daily News.

Because this issue has been long standing, the state's Department of Environmental Protection ordered General Chemical to set aside $1.27 million toward the cleanup or it will have to stop importing waste and get rid of whatever waste it is processing, within a month. Previously, the company was fined twice for violations of hazardous waste management regulations and the Framingham Board of Health had inspected the plant to find barrels of chemicals not properly stored, evidence the company had pumped contaminated water to the outdoors and discovered a defective laboratory floor, according to this report at's Framingham section. In the wake of these findings the DEP fined the company $30,000.

Local residents have not been too enamored with General Chemical either. As the contamination spread, the company purchased homes in its wake, but the biggest rub continues to be the potential effects on a school next door. While Framingham health officials don't think the contamination threatens students and staff, some have been concerned about the company's operations for about three years.

Clean Venture/Cycle Chem, the group that General Chemical is affiliated with, has been involved with the Environmental Protection Agency in assessing responses from companies that have environmental incidents. For example, it was named in a letter to Chesapeake Energy Corporation as being a potential reviewer of Chesapeake's response to a "release, or threat of release, of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants into the environment from (its) facility located in Canton, Leroy Township, Bradford County, PA." This particular incident was related to Chesapeake's hydraulic fracturing operations at a gas well there. Clean Venture/Cycle Chem is also listed as a reviewer on a standard instruction published by the EPA that references hydraulic fracturing.

The company has also been on the other side of EPA's interests as it settled with it to the tune of about $141,000 for its contribution to a mercury refining Superfund Site. That site was in Guilderland and Colonie, New York, and its share was in the top ten of more than 400 settled amounts related to that site, according to the EPA's records. The cleanup effort that contribution helped to fund was to address soil, sediment and groundwater contaminated by mercury from the 1950s to 1998 by the Mercury Refining Company. It recovered, refined and marketed mercury from batteries, thermometers, pressure regulators and dental amalgam. Before 1980, the waste from its operations was simply dumped over an embankment and as storm water drained from the site it carried mercury into Patroon Creek.

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