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Framingham health director says chemical company probably not needed for toxic storage

Posted by Tom Coakley  January 20, 2012 11:41 AM

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General Chemical Corp. uses only a fraction of its allotted capacity for temporarily storing hazardous materials, suggesting the company isn’t necessary to the community as a drop-off location for toxins, Framingham Director of Health Ethan Mascoop (cq) said on Thursday night at a Board of Health hearing.

The Board of Health is holding hearings to determine whether General Chemical should keep its so-called site assignment, or the Leland Street company’s local permission to operate.

In recent years, General Chemical has run afoul of local and state regulations for storing toxins at its two-acre facility next to the Woodrow Wilson Elementary School.(cq) Many of its neighbors have called for officials to shutter the firm.

Mascoop's presentation was one of many that he and consultants to the town have made in favor of either shutting down General Chemical or including stricter requirements in a new site assignment. Company representatives have yet to respond to those arguments, but they are expected to respond to them in future hearings.

The company hasn't claimed in public that its closure would result in residents and businesses lacking a facility to drop-off toxins. Regulators at the state Department of Environmental Protection haven't taken a position on the health board's decision to review the company's site assignment, but they have said General Chemical and other facilities are necessary for disposing of toxins in the state."

Speaking before the board and an audience of around 40 people Thursday, Mascoop said the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has given General Chemical permission to receive around 59,000 gallons of hazardous materials, but in 2008 the company received on average only 454 gallons of hazardous materials a day.(all cq)

That means General Chemical could receive materials for 130 days (cq) before it reaches its capacity, said Mascoop. The company transports the materials out of state for permanent storage.

Mascoop used federal and state data to reach his conclusions. It was not clear if the data included non-hazardous materials that General Chemical also accepts.

Representatives of General Chemical who attended the hearing declined to comment on Mascoop’s presentation.

The state allotment was set in the 1980s when consumers and industry used far more toxic substances that needed proper disposal, said Mascoop. Now, he said, because fears about toxins have led to cleaner substitutes over the years, there are less toxins in the economy that need to be treated.

General Chemical only treats six percent (cq) of the toxic chemicals in Massachusetts, said Mascoop. Ten (cq) other facilities around the state, including a few in Boston’s western suburbs, could handle those materials if General Chemical closed, he said.

“Things have changed. We use far less chemicals,” said Mascoop. “There is excess storage and processing in the system. In this case [of General Chemical], I’d say the need is not terribly great given the capacity in Massachusetts.”

The Board of Health’s next hearing on General Chemical is scheduled for February 29 at 7pm at Woodrow Wilson Elementary. (cq)

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