Woburn Neighborhood Association

                           " Fighting For Environmental Justice"
Newsletter/Parade Article/Congressional Record

     

Parade Magazine Article January 25, 2004

How They Uncovered The Truth
By Micah Morrison

At first glance, they don't look like activists. Mike and Linda Raymond of Woburn, Mass.-a blue-collar community north of Boston-are both in their mid-50's. They have been married 35 years, with two grown sons and four grandchildren. Mike teaches computer and fitness classes at the local high school. Linda is a secretary with the public school system. But these self-described "everyday working people" took on City Hall in a battle to protect their community.

Family pictures are on proud display in the Raymond's comfortable home on North Maple Street in one of Woburn's many close-knit neighborhoods. "It's a good place to raise kids," Mike Raymond says of his town. "It has excellent schools and a good health-care system." Yet, on an autumn day three years ago, the Raymond's discovered something about their community that troubled them deeply.

The Raymonds took a walk down the wooded path at the end of their street. Past small ponds and a rise of trees, they came upon an astonishing sight: Trucks loaded with debris were rumbling up the 60-foot slopes at the Woburn Landfill. The 40-acre mountain of trash had been dormant for more than 15 years-now, mysteriously, it was growing again.

"I worried," Linda Raymond recalls. "Who had opened the landfill? Was it toxic? Why hadn't people in the neighborhood been told?"

Given Woburn's history, the Raymond's had reason for concern. In the 1980's, the town was rocked by a lawsuit against local industries claiming that water pollution had led to an increase in leukemia deaths. The story was revived in the '90s with the book and movie A Civil Action. Today, Woburn Mayor John Curran says the city "has worked hard to overcome the Civil Action stigma. Our drinking water has been of the highest quality for over 20 years."

Getting no answers
But when Linda Raymond contacted town officials to find out what was going on, she hit a stone wall. "I couldn't get a straight answer from anyone," she says. "It was very frustrating." So, to get answers-and action-the Raymonds turned to a powerful set of tools: federal and state Freedom of Information (FOI) laws.

As the Raymond's discovered, FOI requests can be made by anyone. "There are a million ways the public can use FOI laws," says Robert Freeman of the New York State Committee on Open Government. "When property taxes are raised, you can review the assessment rolls to ensure that you've been treated fairly. You can find out if your child's teacher is really certified to teach math. You can find out if a restaurant has health-code violations."

First steps
After researching FOI laws, Linda Raymond figured that her first letter should go to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. She wrote asking for "any and all documents pertaining to the Woburn Landfill," noting that she was making the request under the state's Freedom of Information laws. The agency quickly complied, inviting Linda to come review the files.

Speedy cooperation from government agencies is not always the norm. "There will be delays," Linda says. "Sometimes you have to be persistent. And it's important to know your rights-including the right to an appeal when documents are denied."

Looking over the files, Linda made some important discoveries. Under state law, the city was required to bring in material to "cap" the landfill and close it with a protective lining of topsoil, loam and netting. She found that, to pay for the multimillion-dollar project, Woburn had hired a private contractor who was hauling in soil and debris from construction sites to cover the capping costs. In reading through the documents, Linda also discovered that the bottom of the landfill did not have a protective lining.

That's when the Raymonds really began to worry, because the landfill sits on top of a watershed feeding into the nearby Aberjona River. "We found medical waste, coal ash, construction debris and oil seeping into the wetlands," Mike recalls. Were contaminants polluting the watershed?

Digging deeper
The Raymonds zeroed in with more specific requests. A second FOI petition went to the Woburn city clerk for the contract the town had signed with the waste-management firm. The response brought some startling news: "The original contract called for 300,000 tons of waste to be brought in," Mike explains, "but the town was looking to expand the landfill by another million tons."

A third request, to the Woburn Board of Health, brought documents revealing that the former mayor had quietly assembled a panel to advise him on landfill issues, with no public input. The documents also showed discussions of plans for the future of the site, including turning it into a picnic area or police shooting range.

"We got very angry," Linda recalls. "We felt the politicians were making plans without anyone knowing about it. And there were possible health risks."

Taking action
The Raymonds swung into action. They organized their neighbors, contacted the media and raised the issue at public meetings. "The documents we obtained under FOI educated us," Linda says. "And we in turn were able to educate the community."

At first, their aims were modest. "We wanted to postpone the capping until the landfill could be tested and deemed environmentally safe," Mike says. But the Raymonds had hit a nerve. Under mounting pressure, plans for the landfill were shelved.

"Without FOI laws," Linda says, "we couldn't have done it."

A threat to access?
Next time, it might be more difficult. Some journalists and civil liberties defenders believe that fences have gone up around FOI laws in the aftermath of 9/11. "Freedom of Information is under threat," says Woburn Daily Times Chronicle columnist Marie Coady. "Across the country, it's becoming harder to access documents."

On the federal level, "there has been a major change in atmosphere since 9/11," says Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Federal officials "are not releasing information they would have provided five years ago."

Still, thousands of Freedom of Information requests continue to be routinely processed every year. And with legal challenges under way, ultimately the courts will decide whether the new restrictions are a reasonable response to a changed world.

The Raymonds say they'll keep using FOI laws. Although the state of Massachusetts has given the Woburn Landfill a clean bill of health, the couple plan to closely watch the results of the elaborate pollution-monitoring procedures established at the site.

"We're just everyday people," Linda says, "but we stopped a landfill from expanding and raised environmental awareness. Any community can do what we did."

Mike agrees. He cites his favorite quote, from anthropologist Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."


A Powerful Tool Everyone Can Use

It's not difficult to use Freedom of Information laws, and there's no telling what you might turn up. Here are some tips on getting the information you want:

RESEARCH FIRST. Who has the information you're seeking? Identify your targets. Ask your local librarian for help. Check municipal, state and federal Web sites. Most states have a designated office to help with public-records searches. Federal agencies have FOI officers. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (www.rcfp.org) publishes guides to using state and federal Freedom of Information laws.

PUT IT IN WRITING. While some states allow oral requests, it's best to write a short letter stating what information you're seeking. Note that you're making the request under a state or federal Freedom of Information statute. Be as specific as possible. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has a helpful sample letter at its Web site.

SHOW THEM THE MONEY. Often there will be a photocopying fee and other costs related to your request. You can speed the process by stating in your letter how much you're willing to pay and asking to be notified if costs exceed that amount. You also can request a fee waiver. In some cases, you can go to a government office to view the documents and do your own copying.

EXEMPTIONS AND APPEALS. Many public records are exempt from FOI laws. The U.S. Congress did not make itself or the courts subject to the statute. Most documents impacting minors, criminal investigations, trade secrets and personal privacy are off-limits. But you also may be denied documents that you have a right to see. If you are denied access, be sure to use the FOI appeals process. A brief letter to the agency head requesting a review of the decision will get the ball rolling. Meanwhile, make photocopies of everything you send out. Above all, be patient and persistent. You may be pleasantly surprised!


 
Woburn Story Recorded in Congressional Record by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont

 Congressional Record: February 6, 2004 (Senate) Page S687-S689 THE IMPORTANCE OF STATE AND FEDERAL FREEDOM OF INFORMATION LAWS Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, ``We're just everyday people,'' said Linda Raymond of herself and her husband, Mike, of Woburn, MA. ``But we stopped a landfill from expanding and raised environmental awareness. Any community can do what we did.'' The Raymonds live in a blue-collar suburb of Boston where they both work in the public school system. Three years ago, while walking on a wooded trail in their neighborhood, they discovered that the city's landfill, which had been dormant for 15 years, was bustling with truck traffic. They had cause for alarm. Woburn is the setting of the events that were described in the book, ``A Civil Action.'' After rates of leukemia shot upward, local industries were sued in the 1980s for polluting the area water. The Raymonds, who had not previously been involved in environmental activism, sprang into action, determined to discover what was being planned for the landfill and how this would impact the community's public health. The Raymonds' story was recounted in the January 25, 2004, issue of Parade magazine. ``When Linda Raymond contacted town officials to find out what was going on, she hit a stone wall. `I couldn't get a straight answer from anyone,' she says. `It was very frustrating.''' The article describes what the Raymonds did next: ``To get answers--and action--the Raymonds turned to a powerful set of tools: Federal and State Freedom of Information (FOI) laws.'' With the information the Raymonds collected under Massachusetts State FOI laws, they educated the community and held public officials accountable. Their actions ultimately led to the city shelving plans to expand the size of the landfill by over a million tons of waste--plans that had been developed without public knowledge or debate, and which had not been evaluated for environmental or health impacts. The Raymonds' triumph highlights the power of Government sunshine laws. It also demonstrates one of the most common uses of such laws by citizens and local community groups--that is, reliance on FOI laws to ensure that schools, neighborhoods and local industries are safe and secure. Our FOI laws are in danger, however, especially in the post-9/ 11 era. As noted by Parade, ``Some journalists and civil liberties defenders believe that fences have gone up around FOI laws in the aftermath of 9/11. `Freedom of Information is under threat,' says Woburn Daily Times Chronicle columnist Marie Coady. `Across the country, it's becoming harder to access documents.''' One of the most significant threats to American citizens' right to know about health and safety issues was enacted by Congress in 2002 in the form of a broad exemption to the Federal sunshine law, the Freedom of Information Act, FOIA. The Homeland Security Act of 2002, HSA, contained a subtitle purportedly designed to protect ``critical infrastructure information.'' That broadly defined term applies to information regarding a variety of facilities--such as privately operated power plants, bridges, dams, ports, or chemical plants--that might be targeted for a terrorist attack. In exchange for the cooperation of private companies in sharing information with the government regarding vulnerabilities in the Nation's critical infrastructure, those companies would not have to share certain information with the public. Encouraging cooperation between the private sector and the Government to keep our critical infrastructure systems safe from terrorist attacks is a goal we all support. Unfortunately, rather than increasing security by encouraging private sector disclosure to the Government, the law guts FOIA at the expense of our national security and public health. The HSA created a new FOIA exemption for ``critical infrastructure information.'' In HSA negotiations, House Republicans and the administration promoted legislative language that they described as necessary to encourage the owners of such facilities to identify vulnerabilities in their operations and share that information with the Department of Homeland Security, DHS. The stated goal was to ensure that steps could be taken to ensure the facilities' protection and proper functioning. In fact, such descriptions of the legislation were disingenuous. These provisions, which were eventually enacted in the HSA, shield from FOIA almost any voluntarily submitted document stamped by the facility owner as ``critical infrastructure.'' This is true no matter how tangential the content of that document may be to the actual security of a facility. The law effectively allows companies to hide information about public health and safety from American citizens simply by submitting it to DHS. The enacted provisions were called ``deeply flawed'' by Mark Tapscott of the Heritage Foundation. He argued that the ``loophole'' created by the law ``could be manipulated by clever corporate and government operators to hide endless varieties of potentially embarrassing and/or criminal information from public view.'' In addition, under the HSA, disclosure by private facilities to DHS neither obligates the private company to address the vulnerability, nor requires DHS to fix the problem. For example, in the case of a chemical spill, the law bars the Government from disclosing information without the written consent of the company that caused the pollution. As the Washington Post editorialized on February 10, 2003, ``A company might preempt environmental regulators by `voluntarily' divulging incriminating material, thereby making it unavailable to anyone else.'' Last March, I introduced a bill to repeal this dangerously broad FOIA exemption and to replace it with a balanced measure that will protect our Nation's critical infrastructure without obliterating public oversight. The Restoration of Freedom of Information Act--Restore FOIA--would protect legitimate records pertaining to critical infrastructure safety, but would remove the free pass given by the HSA to industry for any information that a facility chooses to label ``critical infrastructure.'' Perhaps most important to people like the Raymonds, who relied on State [[Page S688]] FOI laws to obtain information on the Woburn landfill, the Restore FOIA bill also allows local authorities to apply their own sunshine laws. Unlike the provisions of the HSA, the Restore FOIA bill does not preempt any State or local disclosure laws for information obtained outside the Department of Homeland Security. Likewise, it does not restrict the use of such information by State agencies. By enacting Restore FOIA, we can protect the Nation's critical infrastructure without cutting the public out of the loop. James Madison said, ``A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or tragedy or perhaps both.'' I urge my colleagues to support Restore FOIA so that this basic and fundamental principle is upheld. I ask unanimous consent that the Parade article describing the Rayburns fight for open and accountable Government be printed in the Record. There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: [From Parade Magazine, Jan. 25, 2004] How They Uncovered the Truth (By Micah Morrison) At first glance, they don't look like activists. Mike and Linda Raymond of Woburn, Mass., a blue-collar community north of Boston, are both in their mid-50s. They have been married 35 years, with two grown sons and four grandchildren. Mike teaches computer and fitness classes at the local high school. Linda is a secretary with the public school system. But these self-described ``everyday working people'' took on City Hall in a battle to protect their community. Family pictures are on proud display in the Raymonds' comfortable home on North Maple Street in one of Woburn's many close-knit neighborhoods. ``It's a good place to raise kids,'' Mike Raymond says of his town. ``It has excellent schools and a good health-care system.'' Yet, on an autumn day three years ago, the Raymonds discovered something about their community that troubled them deeply. The Raymonds took a walk down the wooden path at the end of their street. Past small ponds and a rise of trees, they came upon an astonishing sight: Trucks loaded with debris were rumbling up the 60-foot slopes at the Woburn Landfill. The 40-acre mountain of trash had been dormant for more than 15 years--now, mysteriously, it was growing again. ``I worried,'' Linda Raymond recalls. ``Who had opened the landfill? Was it toxic? Why hadn't people in the neighborhood been told?'' Given Woburn's history, the Raymonds had reason for concern. In the 1980s, the town was rocked by a lawsuit against local industries claiming that water pollution had led to an increase in leukemia deaths. The story was revived in the '90s with the book and movie A Civil Action. Today, Woburn Mayor John Curran says the city ``has worked hard to overcome the Civil Action stigma. Our drinking water has been of the highest quality for over 20 years.'' Getting no answers. But when Linda Raymond contacted town officials to find out what was going on, she hit a stone wall. ``I couldn't get a straight answer from anyone,'' she says. ``It was very frustrating.'' So, to get answers--and action--the Raymonds turned to a powerful set of tools: federal and state Freedom of Information (FOI) laws. As the Raymonds discovered, FOI requests can be made by anyone. ``There are a million ways the public can use FOI laws,'' says Robert Freeman of the New York State Committee on Open Government. ``When property taxes are raised, you can review the assessment rolls to ensure that you've been treated fairly. You can find out if your child's teacher is really certified to teach math. You can find out if a restaurant has health-code violations.'' First steps. After researching FOI laws, Linda Raymond figured that her first letter should go to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. She wrote asking for ``any and all documents pertaining to the Woburn Landfill,'' noting that she was making the request under the state's Freedom of Information laws. The agency quickly complied, inviting Linda to come review the files. Speeky cooperation from government agencies is not always the norm. ``There will be delays,'' Linda says. ``Something you have to be persistent. And it's important to know your rights--including the right to an appeal when documents are denied.'' Looking over the files, Linda made some important discoveries. Under state law, the city was required to bring in material to ``cap'' the landfill and close it with a protective lining of topsoil, loam and netting. She found that, to pay for the multimillion-dollar project, Woburn had hired a private contractor who was hauling in soil and debris from construction sites to cover the capping costs. In reading through the documents, Linda also discovered that the bottom of the landfill did not have a protective lining. That's when the Raymonds really began to worry, because the landfill sits on top of a watershed feeding into the nearby Aberjona River. ``We found medical waste, coal ash, construction debris and oil seeping into the wetlands,'' Mike recalls. Were contaminants polluting the watershed? Digging deeper. The Raymonds zeroed in with more specific requests. A second FOI petition went to the Woburn city clerk for the contract the town had signed with the waste- management firm. The response brought some startling news: ``The original contract called for 300,000 tons of waste to be brought in,'' Mike explains, ``but the town was looking to expand the landfill by another million tons.'' A third request, to the Woburn Board of Health, brought documents revealing that the former mayor had quietly assembled a panel to advise him on landfill issues, with no public input. The documents also showed discussions of plans for the future of the site, including turning it into a picnic area or police shooting range. ``We got very angry,'' Linda recalls. ``We felt the politicians were making plans without anyone knowing about it. And there were possible health risks.'' Taking action. The Raymonds swung into action. They organized their neighbors, contacted the media and raised the issue at public meetings. ``The documents we obtained under FOI educated us,'' Linda says. ``And we in turn were able to educate the community.'' At first, their aims were modest. ``We wanted to postpone the capping until the landfill could be tested and deemed environmentally safe,'' Mike says. But the Raymonds had hit a nerve. Under mounting pressure, plans for the landfill were shelved. ``Without FOI laws,'' Linda says, ``we couldn't have done it.'' A threat to access? Next time, it might be more difficult. Some journalists and civil liberties defenders believe that fences have gone up around FOI laws in the aftermath of 9/11. ``Freedom of Information is under threat,'' said Woburn Daily Times Chronicle columnist Marie Coady. ``Across the country, it's becoming harder to access documents.'' On the federal level, ``there has been a major change in atmosphere since 9/11,'' says Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Federal officials ``are not releasing information they would have provided five years ago.'' Still, thousands of Freedom of Information requests continue to be routinely processed every year. And with legal challenges under way, ultimately the courts will decide whether the new restrictions are a reasonable response to a changed world. The Raymonds say they'll keep using FOI laws. Although the state of Massachusetts has given the Woburn Landfill a clean bill of health, the couple plan to closely watch the results of the elaborate pollution-monitoring procedures established at the site. ``We're just everyday people,'' Linda says, ``but we stopped a landfill from expanding and raised environmental awareness. Any community can do what we did.'' Mike agrees. He cites his favorite quote, from anthropologist Margaret Mead: ``Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.'' a powerful tool everyone can use It's not difficult to use Freedom of Information laws, and there's no telling what you might turn up. Here are some tips on getting the information you want: Research First.--Who has the information you're seeking? Identify your targets. Ask your local librarian for help. Check municipal, state and federal Web sites. Most states have a designated office to help with public-records searches. Federal agencies have FOI officers. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (www.rcfp.org) publishes guides to using state and federal Freedom of Information laws. Put It in Writing.--While some states allow oral requests, it's best to write a short letter stating what information you're seeking. Note that you're making the request under a State or Federal Freedom of Information statute. Be as specific as possible. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has a helpful sample letter at its Web site. Show Them the Money.--Often there will be a photocopying fee and other costs related to your request. You can speed the process by stating in your letter how much you're willing to pay and asking to be notified if costs exceed that amount. You also can request a fee waiver. In some cases, you can go to a government office to view the documents and do your own copying. Exemptions and Appeals.--Many public records are exempt from FOI laws. The U.S. Congress did not make itself or the courts subject to the statute. Most documents impacting minors, criminal investigations, trade secrets and personal privacy are off-limits. But you also may be denied documents that you have a right to see. If you are denied access, be sure to use the FOI appeals process. A brief letter to the agency head requesting a review of the decision will get the ball rolling. Meanwhile, make photocopies of everything you send out. Above all, be patient and persistent. You may be pleasantly surprised! There's More You Can Discover There's a common belief that FOI laws are used mainly in environmental cases. Not true. Here are examples of other uses of this powerful tool: [[Page S689]] In Grand Rapids, MI, a high school government class used Freedom of Information laws to expose flaws in the county's jury-selection system. In Fulton, MO, a concerned citizen used State open- government laws--kissing cousins to FOI statutes--to force disclosure of town-council discussion about building a golf course at taxpayer expense. In Washington, D.C., a women used FOI laws to find out about the ownership of some drug-infested, abandoned buildings. The owner? The District of Columbia government! The U.S. Department of Agriculture--as a result of an FOI request--revealed accounts of the mistreatment of circus elephants. ____________________

 





WNA  NEWSLETTER

 Landfill Update

 

The capping portion of the unlined Woburn Landfill is completed. But, this is only the beginning. Over the next few months the City of Woburn will be submitting their final closure and maintenance plan to the Department of Environmental Protection. Once approved the landfill closure will enter a new phase. Over the next thirty years the landfill drainage will be tested to insure that that no further contaminates enter the Aberjona watershed. The Woburn Neighborhood Association will be part of the process and will issue status reports as they become available.

 

Staying Involved

In addition to the work we have done in conjunction with the Woburn Landfill the Woburn Neighborhood Association, Inc. is involved in other environmental projects that are affecting our community as well. We will also be updating you on the following projects

(a)    The Aberjona Study Coalition, Inc.

(b)   The Wilmington Citizen Advisory Panel

(c)    The Woburn-Wilmington Collaborative

(d)    The Olin Chemical Corp. site

(e)    Department of Public Health Study of Woburn

 

Woburn Health Study

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health recently announced that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry  (ATSDR) has provided them with funding for the next fiscal year of October 2003 through September 2004. Neighborhoods around the Woburn Landfill project are proposed for ATSDR work plan. However, the work plan priorities and timelines are not expected to be finalized until sometime early in the federal fiscal year being October 2003.

 

There is a separate project that involves developing an application through Geographic Informational System (GIS), which will allow DPH to respond to requests for neighborhood level analysis of cancer data in all communities across the state in a much quicker time frame.  This application should be complete in early fall as stated by Theresa Cassidy of the DPH.

 

 Continuing to Make a Difference

The Aberjona Study Coalition, Inc. (ASC) a newly formed coalition of six local community groups: Woburn Neighborhood Association, Inc., Woburn Residents Environmental Network, Concerned Citizens Network, Friends of the Upper Mystic Lake, Mystic River Watershed Association and Medford Boat Club.  These groups have organized to form a community wide environmental group. The individual groups are from Arlington, Medford, Wilmington, Winchester and Woburn. The Aberjona Study Coalition, Inc. jointly covers the entire Aberjona Watershed and plans to hold public meetings in each of the locations it represents.

 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded a double Technical Assistance Grant on the Aberjona River combined study of the Industri-Plex and Woburn G & H Wells Sites along with New England Grassroots Environmental Fund (NEGEF) grant award for administration, to the Aberjona Study Coalition, Inc. The grants will be used to offset part of the projected ASC operating budget.

 

If you have any questions or would like to get involved in this project, you can contact the Aberjona Study Coalition, Inc at (781) 935-2438 or by mail to 10 North Maple Street, Woburn, MA 01801, or by email at aberjonastudy@yahoo.com

 

 

The Wilmington CAP

The Wilmington Citizen Advisory Panel (CAP) is a Town of Wilmington Committee made up of Town officials, Wilmington residents and three members of the Woburn Neighborhood Association. The committee was in charge of hiring a technical advisor to look into the water pollution problems that effect both Wilmington and Woburn. To date we have hired GeoInsight as a Technical Advisor. We are in the process of investigating concerns associated with the Olin Chemical Corp. of Wilmington and Maple Meadows Landfill.

 

 

Wilmington/Woburn Trash Train Defeated

On July 10th, 2003 New England Transrail, LLC d/b/a/ Wilmington/Woburn Railroad filed with the Surface Transportation Board for establishment of a Class III regional rail carrier and construction of a bulk reload center proposed on the Olin Chemical site located on the Wilmington/Woburn line. The proposed property, a tier 1A site; receiving the worst rating in the Massachusetts tier rating listing of contaminated sites, poses severe health and environmental threats.  It has been determined that a known human carcinogen called NDMA has originated at the Olin site and is responsible for closing five town water wells in Wilmington.  The contamination is far reaching, involving surface water contamination affecting the Aberjona River from the Olin property to the south and east and into the Maple Meadow Brook aquifer northwest and west. Olin has hastily eliminated chemicals of concern in their analyses and thus these chemicals are not addressed in their remediation alternative considerations.

 

On this date, the Surface Transportation Board denied petitions for stay filed by the Town of Wilmington and the City of Woburn as well as residents from both communities.  The Board’s decision noted that “in order for New England Transrail to construct and operate its proposed new rail line, it must seek construction authority from the Board in a separate filing, under 49 U.S.C. 10901 and 49 CFR 1150.1 et seq.”  And upon that filing the Board’s Section of Environmental Analysis (SEA) will conduct the “appropriate level of environmental review of the proposed new rail line construction and operation pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Board’s rules implementing NEPA at 49 CFR part 1105.”  New England Transrail’s proposal for a Rail-Truck Regional Transfer Station at the site would have brought in more contamination by rail and truck from all parts of the country and then would have redistributed it as well.  This business would also have contributed to the overburdened truck traffic and noise effecting residents in both communities, and most importantly an additional worry to further exposure to hazardous and contaminated material from accidents and mishaps.

 

On Monday, July 14, 2003 New England Transrail withdrew from pressure of the following parties: With the involvement of two citizens groups, the Woburn Neighborhood Association, Inc. as well as the Concerned Citizens Network as the Woburn/Wilmington Collaborative was able to unite officials from both the City of Woburn and the Town of Wilmington in support of denying this petition. The Woburn/Wilmington Collaborative also reached out to Representatives Carol Donovan and James Miceli as well as Senator Havern, Congressmen Markey and Tierney for their support.

It wasn’t until the Woburn/Wilmington Collaborative petitioned Senator Kennedy and met with Senator Kerry’s office resulting in their prompt involvement with both the Woburn Neighborhood Association and Concerned Citizens Network that progress was made.  A letter from the Congress of the United States sent to Mr. Vernon, Williams, Secretary of the Surface Transportation Board cosigned by U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, U.S. Senator John Kerry, U.S. Representative Edward Markey and U.S. Representative John Tierney stating the following:

“The parcel of land on which this project is proposed has a long and sordid history of environmental degradation and chemical contamination.  On July 2, 2003, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) requested that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assist in the technical evaluation of the chemical make-up of contaminants found on the property.  Concerned citizens from both communities have exhaustively catalogued the long-standing and pervasive contamination on the site.  Officials of both communities, including Wilmington Town Manger Michael Caira and Woburn Mayor John Curran, as well as Massachusetts State Representatives James Miceli and Carol Donovan, have expressed strong opposition to the proposed project based in large part on its potential for exacerbating an already precarious environmental situation.”

 

“We write to you today in anticipation of New England Transrail’s expected filing seeking authority to construct a new half-mile line to link the existing B & M line segments necessary to serve the planned reload facility.  We respectfully request that the project be evaluated under the most stringent possible environmental standards; that a full Environmental Impact Statement be issued for public review and comment; and that all environmental issues be fully addressed and mitigated before any construction could begin.”

 

We would also like to express our gratitude to those residents who signed letters in opposition as well as Alderman-at-large, Joanna Gonsalves and  Alderman Ward 6, John Ciriello for their support and involvement with all parties involved.

 

Summary:

We will continue to publish this newsletter as long as there are environmental concerns facing our community. Please send your thoughts and or comments to fitwalker1@aol.com or Woburn Neighborhood Association at 10 North Maple Street, Woburn, MA 01801 (781) 935-2438.

 

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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