Be fully informed: Require inspection

To the Editor:

FairPLAN asks that the town and state require Exide to fully inspect the two drainage pipes that run along its property lines into Mill River (the so-called “railroad drain” and the “Post Road drain”). The pipes are obstructed and deteriorated in parts and only a small portion was able to be visually inspected some years ago.

Exide is offering a cleanup plan that avoids testing these pipes or the land beneath them. Conservation Director Tom Steinke has extensively researched this property over the past 40 years, and has compiled a history of evidence that the pipes likely did drain factory wastes into the river, and that various state agencies had previously requested testing.

For example, in 2004 the state Department of Transportation expressed concern about the heavy sediments in the railroad drain pipe, sediments first identified by Exide’s own consultants in 2001. In a letter dated Sept. 16, 2004, DOT told the Department of Environmental Protection “it is imperative for the DEP to order a full investigation and, if necessary, remediation of the railroad right-of-way.” Apparently this was never done.

The town has the choice of accepting Exide’s cleanup plan without any testing of these pipes, or it can push for inspection. There is a public hearing pending at Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, which will finally decide what Exide is required to do for portions of the remediation plan.

If the pipes remain uninspected we will not know for sure what lies within or beneath them, until perhaps it is too late. If the pipes or the ground surrounding them is contaminated, then over time it could re-contaminate Mill River.

Both Exide and DEEP believe there is no contamination in the pipes at levels requiring remediation. But without inspection there is no way to know for sure. Once Exide has completed the cleanup, it will be released from liability, so any future recontamination of Mill River will fall on the state and town’s shoulders. By then the six-acre parcel will have been developed and it will be more difficult and costly without the Exide land as a staging ground.

Exide operated from 1951 to 1981 and it has taken another 30-plus years of delays and at least one re-contamination saga, to get where we are today. Exide is finally poised to clean up the river. Certainly the cost to test is relatively small compared to the scope of this multi-year, multimillion dollar project. It seems short sighted and hasty to release Exide without being fully informed.

It’s time for Exide to stop avoiding this issue and for our state and town officials to step up and finally require full testing of these drainage pipes.


Fairfielders Protecting Land and Neighborhoods

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