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Town Council to vote on Braintree EPA dispute

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  September 6, 2011 01:01 PM

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Braintree Town Councilors tonight will discuss the Mayor’s action to seek reparations from the US Environmental Protection Agency after Clean Harbors’ $1.7 million settlement with the EPA did not include any compensation for the town.

According to reports, Clean Harbors’ hazardous waste plant allegedly stored wastes improperly as well as used deteriorating storage tanks with faulty monitoring equipment at their site in Braintree, found through a review by the EPA in July 2007.

As such, the nearly 30 violations from both the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act prompted an administrative order.

Although Clean Harbors disputed the claims that the infractions were a safety risk, the company conducted all required upgrades and agreed to provide future compensation for the offenses.

At the time, Braintree officials discussed with Clean Harbor officials the potential of receiving a $900,000 hazardous materials response fire truck as reparation for the violations at the Braintree site.

Yet when a settlement with the EPA was reached, Clean Harbors was only requested to pay for $1 million in trees to the city of Boston, and $650,000 in civil penalties, leaving the town out entirely.

It is something Braintree officials have since been attempting to remedy, and Town Council will further support the initiative tonight, Council President Charles Ryan said.

“We wanted to take a vote in support of the mayor’s position that the town should have been compensated and the town should have gotten an emergency response vehicle” he said. “[Clean Harbors] gave 1000 trees to the City of Boston, which is a great thing, but the violations occurred at the Braintree location. I think it’s more appropriate the town of Braintree receive compensation and in the form of a vehicle to respond to that facility in the future.”

The council vote is only one of a few things officials have been doing in recent weeks to respond to the settlement.

According to Peter Morin, chief of staff and operations for the town, officials have reached out to the congressional delegation and received support in the town’s position.

Additionally, a response is currently being prepared and will be delivered to the courts in upcoming weeks.

“It’s still a work in progress, but our position hasn’t changed. We think the original proposed consent is woefully wrong,” Morin said. “We think [a fire truck is still] appropriate. It’s a pressing need for the East Braintree community, and we continue to think it’s an appropriate focal point for compensation.”

Clean Harbors has expressed a willingness to work with the town to modify the agreement, Morin said, though it remains to be seen whether that modification would mean less money to the already-awarded parties, or additional money awarded to the town on top of the proposed settlement.

Morin suspects that the issue will most likely be resolved in the next several weeks.

As for the future, the town will potentially seek to alter the EPA’s internal settlement trajectory.

“This is a problem that has recurred in Braintree where environmental enforcement agents have gone ahead with settlements without adequately seeking public comment and community input, and we think that has to change,” Morin said. “They haven’t reached out to the impacted community as their own policies dictate. If they had, we would be in this predicament.”

Regardless of the outcome, officials remain confident something will be done.

“As Congressman Stephen Lynch has said, right is right. The parties involved will see the err in their initial efforts,” Morin said.

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