Eduardo A. de Oliveira / EthnicNewz.org
On January 28th parents of students at Framingham’s Woodrow Wilson Elementary School had the chance they were waiting for to learning more about the impacts of underground contamination caused by hazardous materials that spilled from General Chemical Corporation, a company located next door to the school.
The company acknowledged that spills of chlorinated solvents contaminated the underground water in several areas. Residents from Leland Street to Victor Road, and Alia Street, were invited to ask questions and hear officials’ input about possible solutions. Although only three migrant workers participated in the Woodrow Wilson meeting, principal Robin Welch revealed that 82 percent of the students come from local immigrant communities.
Roy Swartz, the company’s compliance manager, told the audience of about 100 people that the contamination occurred in 70s during normal business practices, and that the company received a state license to perform waste management at its current site in 1986.
But Michael Hugo, the Board of Health Chairman, said that Framingham was still dealing with the spills consequences in 2002. In fact, on the Saturday after the 2007 Thanksgiving, the school’s principal Robin Welch, was informed that state and federal officials were closing the school for a throughout evaluation of the air quality.
«At that moment I felt the school could be permanently shutdown. Fortunately all the testing results came negative and could continue with our work,» said Welch, who had led the school for the past 13 years.
Welch’s guarantees that he had never seeing pattern that proves the school poses any risk for students and staff did not quiet down the suspicions of several parents.
«How and why a town gives the Ok for a chemical company to open close to a school that crew to hold 500 kids?» asked an audience member. The Woodrow Wilson School is one of only two schools in Massachusetts to keep a bilingual teaching method, regardless the fact that this system was banned by ballot voting in 2002.
Officials were not immediately able to comment on the approval General Chemical received to start its operation in Framingham 50 years ago. But Swartz claimed that that are a lot of misconceptions about the company, and added that for 30 years (before General Chemical) Gulf stored thousands of gallons of gasoline at the same site.
Swartz said that the corporation is longer recycling solvents, practice abandoned in 2002. He also said that 40 percent of the total inventory is not hazardous waste.
«We manage all the waste coming in with the same track process. Everything is computerized,» he said.
At some moments the audience seemed agitated, whispering words of disbelief among themselves. But Michael Hudson, a senior project manager at FS Engineers, Inc., brought some normalcy when he explained that tests made with 70 monitoring wells show that the contamination is receding.
«All the tests made last October show that the levels of contamination are well below the standards,» said Hudson, adding that when a truck filled of oil tips over Route 9, General Chemical is the company responsible for cleaning the road spill and disposing of the waste.
Michael Hugo said that at the moment local authorities are waiting for the approval from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to the Remedy Evaluation Report submitted by General Chemical.
Eradicating the problem, some officials said, is a matter of years, probably 3 to 5 years. The Remedy Implementation Plan is scheduled to start