SELECTMEN NEWS: Town Has NO Plans To Reactivate Contaminated Wells; Town Manager Takes Offense To McCoy’s Comments

WILMINGTON, MA — At this week’s Selectmen’s Meeting, Town Manager Jeff Hull assured residents that he, his team of department heads, Special Town Counsel Dan Deutsch, and the town’s environmental consultants GeoInsight are well aware of the feasibility study that Olin submitted to the EPA last month. Hull stressed that there are absolutely no plans to pollute the town’s water systems by reactivating some of the town’s contaminated wells.

Hull Sets The Record Straight

Town Manager Jeff Hull read a memo he had written into the record in response to concerns raised by Selectman Mike McCoy at the most recent Selectmen’s Meeting.

“At the Selectmen’s Meeting on May 15, Selectman McCoy stated he was informed by a concerned citizen that plans were going forward to reactivate the public water supply wells that have been inactive due to contamination from Olin Chemical Superfund Site. It was implied that such a step was definite and imminent,” began Hull. “There is NO impending plan to activate any of the five wells for the purpose of sending that water into the town’s water distribution system.”

“In accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s requirements, Olin’s consultant — Wood Environmental and Infrastructure – completed a draft interim action feasibility study in April 2019. That document was sent to the town by EPA on May 1, 2019, with a May 22, 2019 deadline for responses, which has since been extended to May 31, 2019,” continued Hull. “GeoInsight, the town’s environmental consultant, has been reviewing the document and finalizing comments to issue to EPA prior to that deadline.”

“Olin is required to investigate a range of options addressing the contaminants of concern before EPA can decide on the best option to address contaminants. They require Olin, through their consultant, to explore the range of possibilities. This is a decision that EPA is going to make; this isn’t going to be Olin’s call,” added Hull. “One of the six possibilities explored by the report to address groundwater is using the town’s existing water infrastructure to draw groundwater from two inactive town wells. This possibility includes the possibility of upgrading the town’s treatment capabilities of the water treatment plan to address NDMA and other contaminants of concern to meet the drinking water standards. The details of this option specifically note – quoting from the report – ‘that the alternative is viable only if it achieves public acceptance and the town elects to reactivate the former wells. If the town wells are not reactivated, this alternative would not be amendable and would need to be reevaluated’. If the town does not buy into this, this does not become an option.”

“It is important to understand that Olin is required to explore a range of possibilities or options to address contaminants. The fact that this option is being explored in no way means that Wilmington will be forced to reactivate these wells,” concluded the Hull. “The town, through its consultants, will offer comments on the report, and EPA will evaluate the viability of each of these options being presented.”

Hull Sharply Rebukes McCoy’s Comments & Behavior

“Simply put, everything the Town Manager is stating is pretty much – with a different choice of words – what I said at the last Selectmen’s Meeting,” responded Selectman McCoy. “Respectfully, when I did bring this up [at the last meeting], the Town Manager basically had no clue that this was even happening and had no idea of May 22 at the cutoff date. The reason I brought that up is because Suzanne Sullivan mentioned it to me. If I didn’t bring this up, our next meeting would have been on May 28, well after the 22nd, [and there would have been] no written response [from the town to the EPA].”

“Let me respond to that. I take great exception!,” began Town Manager Jeff Hull. “First of all, this ‘gotcha mentality’ is not the way the Board of Selectmen should work… I have had a longstanding expectation that the Board of Selectmen inform me of issues you want to bring up at the meetings. Not this gotcha mentality. And I do the same thing with the Board of Selectmen so nothing is thrown into your laps without any warning.”

“There are a number of reports that have been sent to our office over the last 10-15 years. Each time those reports come in, they’re sent out to our consultant, reviewed, and appropriately commented on. The same thing was going to happen in this case,” continued Hull. “If I had given every member of the Board of Selectmen a copy of the documents, you’d have a roomful of binders and reports on this project.”

“To suggest I was asleep at the switch on this is simply not the case and I find it insulting. We were working on this, the comments were going to be made, I’m not sure why the extension was granted. I certainly didn’t request the extension. We will comment on the document and we will move forward,” added Hull.

“To suggest that we – the town of Wilmington – or I am going to allow Olin to open the wells and run water from wells that have been shut off for 15 years is just absolutely incredible,” continued Hull. “EPA and DEP would have to go through a series of tests of that water to be satisfied it met public water drinking standards. You just can’t open these wells and send water into the public distribution system. That just doesn’t happen.”

“To get people all cranked up to think we’re that devious as to put polluted water into their drinking water system, I think is beyond comprehension,” Hull concluded.

“I was being very kind on how I was presenting this to you,” responded McCoy, who noted Hull appeared to be unaware of the May 22 deadline as the last meeting. “I don’t have a ‘gotcha mentality.’ The only reason I brought that up because I have faith in Suzanne Sullivan and I think she knows more about what’s on out there than most people. And I think everything I said was pretty much accurate. I’m not trying to confrontational with you.”

“The cutoff time was May 22. I’d love to find out why did they extend it? I have no idea why. I’m being kind and sincere. You have to understand you said you had no idea of the cutoff time,” added McCoy.

“I said, specifically, that I recalled the document coming in, but I couldn’t recall the specific details of it because you referenced it as a draft document of some sort. But did I recall the document coming in? Absolutely.” responded Hull.

“But on any given Selectmen’s night, if members of the board want to throw something out there that I haven’t been able to prepare for, yes, you can make me look pretty bad,” added Hull. “There’s a lot going on in this town, including Olin, collective bargaining, budgets, you name it. If you’re expecting me on any given night to have all the details about everything going on in this community, I’m sorry, but I can’t do that without being prepared. So I ask board members to give me a courtesy, to give me a heads up, when you’re going to lob something like that at a meeting, so I can be prepared.”

“Jeff, I have a faith in you, after all, I did vote for your reappointment,” McCoy later said. “All I’m saying is this is perhaps the biggest issue — a town-wide issue — one of the most important things to hit the town of Wilmington… I’m not trying to be confrontational. I brought that up only because of the dates on the meeting and if you said you knew the cutoff time on May 22, it would have been done and over.  You seemed a little puzzled by it. That was my concern. I don’t expect you to know everything, but this is one of the most important issues.”

“Anybody can be surprised on any given day if they aren’t given an opportunity to be prepared, you know?,” responded Hull.

“I agree with that,” said McCoy.

Other Selectmen React

“I think the two biggest takeaways for the [residents] is (1) the town has no plans to reactivate those wells and (2) we are all very confident of the Special Town Counsel we’ve retained to pay very close attention to only this issue are doing a great job and the tax dollars are being well spent when it comes to their services,” said Selectmen Chair Greg Bendel.

In response to questions from Selectmen Bendel and Kevin Caira, Town Manager Hull reiterated that the town’s environmental consultant, GeoInsight, was sent the document on May 2, the day after the town received it. Hull also repeated that the document was shared with Special Town Counsel Dan Deutsch, who represents the town on matters related to Olin.

“GeoInsights are the technical experts who have the scientific knowledge and expertise. They have been [working] for the town since 2003. I think they’re doing a really good job in understanding something that is enormously complex. They’re the consultants that we’ve hired to handle these types of things because the five of us elected officials and the Town Manager aren’t professional trained by environmental engineers. The comments we could submit to the EPA aren’t going to be very helpful,” reminded Selectman Jonathan Eaton. “They’ve been doing a good job. There’s no reason to accuse them of doing anything but that.”

Selectman McCoy agreed GeoInsights have been doing “a great job.”

“We have consultants in place to digest this information and bring whatever needs to be brought to our attention to our attention,” said Selectwoman Jomarie O’Mahony as she held the 138-page document. “I think that process has been working. That’s the process we should be relying on.”

“I would suggest that when we’re having the EPA in to report back to us, and having our consultants report back to us, that the three community groups — Wilmington-Woburn Collaborative, Woburn Neighborhood Association, and Wilmington Environmental Restoration Committee — come too and we all have a meaningful discussion, not have it be that someone is yelling ‘fire’ and we’re then using all our resources to respond to a fire that hasn’t been lit yet,” added O’Mahony. 

Hull noted later in the meeting that the EPA Project Manager Jim DiLorenzo will actually be in front of the Board of Selectmen for an update at its next meeting on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 to discuss the latest Olin developments. Hull pointed out that he had invited DiLorenzo to the meeting well before Selectman McCoy brought up his concerns at the board’s Wednesday, May 15, 2019 meeting and that DiLorenzo would verify that if asked.

Hull Makes Additional Comments To The Apple

Town Manager Hull responded to a request for comment from Wilmington Apple on the accuracy of Selectman McCoy’s statements regarding the possible reactivation of contaminated wellsHull provided his comments after Wilmington Apple had reported on the May 15 meeting, but prior to the Selectmen Meeting on May 21.

“The statement at the Selectmen’s May 15 meeting that part of the Olin plan is to reactivate 2 water supply wells and distribute that water into the Town’s public water supply system is incomplete and not accurate,” began Hull. “It is extremely unfortunate that this idea would be communicated in a public forum without first giving Town officials an opportunity to provide details and context.”

Hull’s response then covered much of the same content he discussed at the May 21 meeting, described in the article above.

“Efforts to address the Olin Superfund site should not be driven by fear-mongering and incomplete and misleading information. There will be an opportunity for reasoned and intelligent discussion about the best ways to clean up the Olin site,” concluded Hull. “The Town will continue to work with its consultant to be attentive to the options presented for remediation and to protect the residents of Wilmington in spite of the fact that a few residents will continue to suggest otherwise.”

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