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Watertown hearing set for decontaminating former Army site, converting into wetlands

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  February 13, 2013 01:40 PM

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The Army Corps of Engineers will hold a public hearing next week on a project to clean up a property near the corner of Arsenal Street and Greenough Boulevard in Watertown that is contaminated with Polychlorinated biphenyl and so it can be turned into wetlands for recreational use.

The meeting will take place Thursday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. at Watertown Town Hall, 149 Main St.

The property was formerly used by the Army following World War II until the mid-1960s for storing equipment, vehicles, and various scrap material. The Corps of Engineers is now working with the town to decontaminate the site by removing the polluted soil and placing a cover over the affected property to create a wetland, which would be transferred from the federal government to the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, according to Ellen Iorio, project manager with the Army Corps of Engineers.

Iorio said the site currently poses little health risk to the local population, but said that the contaminants could potentially harm humans if they come into contact with or ingest them.

A document outlining the Army Corps of Engineers' plan says that the decontamination must happen before the land can be used for recreation.

"Watertown has a very active community, and has been involved in this site for 20 years or more," Iorio said. "They're very familiar with what's going on there and what’s going to be discussed."

Iorio said the government has already begin demolishing buildings on the site in preparation for the contaminated soil removal process.

She said the completed project would not aim to host water activities, since the wetlands would be fairly shallow, but would accommodate walking trails and other passive recreation activities.

Iorio said the Army Corps of Engineers hope to start construction of the wetlands in the spring and finish the project by the end of the year.

Next week’s meeting will include a presentation on the project, and officials will hear any feedback residents may have.

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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