SELECTMEN NEWS: McCoy Sounds Alarm That Olin Has Suggested That Town Reactivate Contaminated Wells

WILMINGTON, MA — At the end of Wednesday night’s special Board of Selectmen Meeting, Selectman Mike McCoy alerted his colleagues to an interim action feasibility study draft recently submitted to the EPA by Olin which, under one alternative, calls for some of the town’s deactivated wells to be turned back on and its contaminated water be sent to the town’s water treatment plant.

In the study, under Groundwater Alternative 2A, Olin suggests the following:

“Water extracted by the reactivated municipal wells would be treated at the municipal plant (which would be upgraded to include UV oxidation units to treat NDMA) so that COCs meet ARARs-based target concentrations and/or target concentrations based on achievement CERCLA risk limits. Redundant (back-up) UV oxidation units would be installed to ensure reliability and continuity of treatment. Should one unit require maintenance, the other unit is immediately available and on-line. The water would be treated to meet ARARs-based target concentrations and/or target concentrations based on achievement of CERCLA risk limits and would then be potable and available for municipal use.

It is important to note that this alternative is viable only if it achieved public acceptance and the Town elects to re-activate the former MWSWs. If the Town wells are not reactivated, this alternative would not be implementable and would need to be reevaluated.”

“From what I understand, there’s an interim draft plan relative to the Olin site from EPA, which states that part of the remediation is basically to turn on the wells that was shut down because of contamination caused by the Olin site and to now turn them back on 17 years later, to send contaminated water to our infiltration system in the Town of Wilmington,” McCoy announced.

“Has [Special Town Counsel] Dan Deutsch or [the town’s environmental consultants] GeoInsight been informed of this? What is their opinion? From what I understand, Jeff, it looks like May 22nd is the cutoff time for any written response to the EPA. I would hope to think we’d get an answer from you tonight,” continued McCoy. “If I’m wrong, tell me, please, but that’s what I’m understanding. [Olin] wants to take that contaminated water and shoot it down to our infiltration plant to recycle it.”

McCoy suggested the Town seek an extension to the May 22 deadline.

Town Manager Jeff Hull and the other Selectmen appeared unaware of the looming comments deadline or Olin putting forward an alternative which would see the town reopen some of its wells and treat the contaminated water at its water treatment facility.

“This is news to me that there’s a proposal for Olin to activate contaminated wells and run that water in the public water system or into the town water’s treatment plant, if that’s what you’re suggesting. I’m just unaware of that,” responded Town Manager Jeff Hull. “I’ll certainly look into it. I have no knowledge of plans for the town’s wells that have been deactivated since 2003-2004 to be reactivated and send that water to our water treatment plant.”

“There are certainly periodically comment documents that are submitted by Olin as they’re going through the various steps of complying with EPA’s requirements,” Hull later added. “I can’t, off the top of my head, recall if there’s a document out there that requires comment by May 22. I do recall something in the last few weeks…  I’d have to go back to look at the exact nature of it. I don’t recall any suggestion that the intent was to turn on the town’s deactivated wells and direct water into our water treatment plant. That’s not something I recall.”

“Did I miss something? Was this information given to us? What was the source of this information? Was it something said to us that we all should have been privy to? This is the first I’m hearing of it,” said new Selectwoman Jomarie O’Mahony.

“I would think [DPW Director] Mike Woods would have been the first on the phone to you if this was going to take place,” Selectman Kevin Caira told Hull.

McCoy said a constituent brought this concern to him.

“A constituent did talk to me about this [earlier today]. I’m just bringing this forward,” said McCoy. “Hey, for 30 years, if a constituent has a need, I bring their wants and needs to the board. That’s what we practice and preach.”

“Is there any written report that your constituent was basing their information on? I can’t comment on what our position would be without knowing the source of the information that we’re supposedly discussing,” responded O’Mahony. “My concern is now [the public] will be worried about their drinking water. I’d love to see what that information is based on so we can actually formulate a response if one is needed.”

Town Manager Hull indicated he wished McCoy would have brought his concerns to him prior to the meeting, rather than surprise the board at the end of the meeting.

“One of the things I’ve tried to suggest to each of the members of the Board — and I try to do the same myself — is that when information comes to my attention, I try to provide it to the board as to avoid surprises,” said Hull. “I ask that the reciprocal be done. It’s a surprise for me to hear about this now.”

“We will have Jeff follow up with [Mr. McCoy’s concerns] tomorrow,” said Selectman Chair Greg Bendel. “He’ll [consult] Dan Deutsch and the Town Department heads to see what you can find out and provide us with an update as soon as he can.”

This item has been placed on the agenda for the Selectmen’s next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, May 21 at 7pm.

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