Weymouth — A citizens group wants the cleanup of contaminants at the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station by the Navy to meet the state’s acceptable health standard, rather than the federal benchmark, before the site is renovated into a residential-commercial complex.
“Contamination and water issues at the base will impact our lives collectively and for generations to come,” said Dominic Galluzzo, co-chairman of the Advocates for Rockland, Abington, Whitman, and Hingham (ARAWH) during a Feb. 24 group meeting. “We are here to present facts without editorializing.”
The group reviewed the cleanup of pollutants by the Navy at a former hangar, a maintenance facility known as Building 81, and a previous firefighters training area.
Richard Lester, a Cambridge Environmental consultant for ARAWH, said that the Navy has determined that there are health risks posed by drinking groundwater near Building 81 and some soil has been removed to eliminate hazards.
“Various remedial actions have been taken at the site over the past 20 years, including a tank removal, three soil removal actions, and a pilot study to test the use of chemical oxidant injections to reduce contaminant concentrations in the groundwater,” he wrote in a summary of cleanup reports that he presented to ARAWH.
Lester further wrote that these cleanup efforts have reduced the contaminant levels in the soil and groundwater to a certain extent, but there are still significant levels of volatile organic compounds at the site.
“We feel that the (cleanup) report is an accurate assessment of the site, and we feel that the Navy has done a good job with its report,” he said to the gathering. “I agree with the conclusions. They do reference state guidelines as being important, but they don’t use them as criteria. They use the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) guidelines and they are less stringent. I feel they should use the state standards.”
The report written by Lester also recommended that the soil near the hangar and firefighting training area be monitored for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).
PFOA is an artificial chemical that has been known to cause developmental and various adverse health effects in laboratory animals. PFOS has caused cancer and physical development delays in animals during laboratory tests.
A summary provided by Lester states that there is a residual presence of PFOA and PFOS in the soil near the hangar and firefighting areas.
“Exposure to PFOS and PFOA is also of potential concern to ecological receptors,” he wrote. “Since PFOS and PFOA were likely released to both the French’s Stream and the Old Swamp River, these chemicals bio-accumulate and surface water sediments should be sampled. Surface water should also be sampled to ensure that releases (of PFOS and PFOA) from groundwater are not ongoing.”
Galluzzo said that local officials should urge state lawmakers to pass legislation that would require a builder to disclose if there is contamination on an adjacent parcel next to a lot they would sell to a buyer.
“We made a recommendation to the town council that will mandate full disclosure of the status of the (contaminated) land area and land purchases that are made in a four-mile diameter,” he said. “The report shows that there are health risks near a motor pool, and there are no guarantees by the state that they (the builders) have to tell you. Please consider the ramifications for your children and grandchildren. We can only do so much. We need legislation to protect the general public, and to advise you of your surroundings.”
Galluzzo urged the council to support the disclosure of soil contamination during a Jan. 30 meeting.
“We have not heard a word from them yet,” he said. “I’m not saying they are not working on it, but we have not heard anything yet. A request was written, and a (cleanup) report was presented to them. This report will be presented to them as a reminder to protect you.”
Tricia Pries, a Weymouth resident, said that the acceptance of land from the Navy that might have contamination could pose a liability to the town.
“What is the liability to Weymouth?” she said. “We have Superfund sites at the base and we know there are human health risks.”
EPA Project Coordinator Bryan Olson said that the federal agency is committed to protecting the public from contamination.
“We don’t intend for someone to live on a contaminated property,” he said. “Some of the cleanup will take longer to do.”
Olson said that the EPA and state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is reviewing the base cleanup reports.
“The EPA relies on groups like yours to help us,” he said. “It takes an additional set of eyes for us to catch everything.”