Beverly Conservation Commission Faces Off against National Grid in Site Cleanup

Posted by Devin Maguire

The Beverly Conservation Commission recently ordered National Grid to remove contaminated soil from the banks of the Bass River, but National Grid is fighting the decision saying they have a cheaper plan which yields the same environmental benefits.

The site in question sits on the bank of the Bass River and contains contaminated remnants from a gas power plant that closed in the 1950′s. According to David Lang, chair of the Conservation Commission, coal tar seeps going into the river were found at the plant a decade ago. Coal tar in high concentration is a carcinogen, and contamination affects fish populations including shellfish and the striped bass population which gives the river its name.

National Grid conducted a cleanup when the seeps were discovered and continues to monitor the river, but the Conservation Commission wants them to take further action to safeguard against future contamination.

The commission’s plan mandates national grid remove the hotter, more contaminated soil away from the river. Lang cites wetland protection regulations in Beverly which prohibits any environmental disturbances within 25 feet of the Bass River to support the commission’s decision. The no-disturbance zone prohibits activity on land bordering wetland areas to prevent alteration of wetlands. Lang believes the contaminated soil at the plant site is a threat which could alter the condition of the Bass River. The commission wants National Grid to move the material out of this 25 foot no-disturb zone in compliance with city regulations. “They don’t have to move it off site, just out of the zone,” Lang said.

But National Grid has a different plan. They want to build a containment structure which would prevent contaminants from seeping into the river. National Grid has already budgeted over $5 million for their cleanup plan. Removing the soil from the 25 foot no-disturb zone would add a couple million to that cost.  A previous article quotes National Grid saying removing the soil “will produce no greater environmental benefit than what we propose but will be greatly more expensive for our customers.”

However, the Conservation Commission doesn’t have the same confidence in National Grid’s containment plan. “They want to encapsulate it,” Lang Said, “but we don’t know if it will continue to leach. It’s not enough safeguard for the commission.” Lang adds that the contaminated soil is in the river’s flood zone and argues removal of the soil from this zone is the only way to ensure there is no future pollution of the river.

National Grid has filed a lawsuit against the Conservation Commission to contest the decision.

National Grid spokespersons were unavailable for immediate comment due to Hurricane Irene.

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Posted by Devin Maguire on Sep 1 2011. Filed under General, Top Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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