Stratford initiative targets 500-acre Superfund legacy

By Bill Fallon

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A formidable lineup of representatives and administrators – including Stratford Mayor John A. Harkins, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Environmental Protection Agency Region 1 Administrator Curt Spalding and state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert Klee – announced at a Stratford Town Hall gathering Monday what they termed “milestone” progress in ridding Stratford of buried industrial poisons.

The event constituted the rollout of a consensus agreement for a cleanup of the Raymark Industries Inc. Superfund legacy in Stratford, about 500 acres total across several sites. Harkins said this is the first time all the stakeholders – including neighbors – are on the same page.

“All sides have had to compromise,” Harkins said.

From left, Stratford Mayor John Harkins with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert Klee. Photo by Bill Fallon
From left, Stratford Mayor John Harkins with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert Klee. Photo by Bill Fallon

The EPA listed the Raymark site on its National Priorities List April 25, 1995.

The city reported Raymark Industries is bankrupt and the cleanup is being conducted by the EPA, in coordination with state DEEP.

The cleanup is the spoil of the manufacture of Raybestos automotive brakes and other asbestos parts between 1919 and 1989. Following bankruptcy in the 1990s, the site was termed a potentially dangerous hazardous waste site.

Raymark was by accounts a good corporate neighbor, offering free fill. That fill has since turned out to be toxic. The fill material found “various commercial, residential, municipal and recreational locations and in wetlands adjacent to the Housatonic River,” according to the city.

The cost of initiating the cleanup at multiple sites – with waste reaching a depth of 16 feet – was placed at $100 million, with the EPA paying. The earliest that physical work could begin is 2017. There is no funding in place now as a remediation plan is first formulated and then presented in a public comment period.

The assembled agreed, however, the day was a milestone.

“It’s been a long slog,” DeLauro said. “We’ve been working on this together for the better part of 20 years.”

Said Spaulding, “This is a big deal.”

“We have a lot to do and we are committed to doing it,” said Nancy Barmakian, EPA acting director, Office of Site Remediation and Restoration in Boston.

The plan envisions removing more than half of the most toxic material from Stratford, with any potential destination as yet unknown.

The city-listed highlights of the consensus plan also include:

  • a conceptual approach that addresses all Raymark waste in residential, commercial and recreational properties, including Ferry Creek and groundwater emanating from the former Raymark facility;
  • support for the plan among local, state and federal elected officials and regulatory agencies;
  • a cost likely to exceed $100 million, with a formalized plan to be presented to EPA for funding later this year after a public hearing process;
  • coordination with the Stratford Health Department;
  • keeping remediation activities as far away from abutting neighbors as possible;
  • constructing vertical barriers between residents and the construction, with particular consideration to the area between the former Raymark ballfield and abutting neighbors;
  • real-time particulate sampling, which can immediately identify and correct any potential problem;
  • dust suppression throughout the construction project, including a consideration of utilizing enclosures to manage material within the largest construction areas;
  • fully secure and covered dump trucks;
  • creating traffic pattern improvements near the former Raymark ballfield, to minimize truck traffic in the neighborhoods;
  • restrictions on hours of work in areas close to residential neighborhoods, likely to include maximum 12-hour days;
  • drainage improvements adjacent to former Raymark ballfield;
  • expeditiously completing cleanup at each property with a goal of no more than two years of construction/disruption at each location (more construction seasons may be necessary at the consolidation area);
  • regular neighborhood meetings before, during and after the construction project;
  • early notification and extensive coordination with property owners in advance of cleanup on their properties; and
  • neighbors adjacent to properties subject to construction will also have early notification and coordination.

“I’d like to thank Congresswoman DeLauro for her leadership and assistance on this issue,” Harkins said. “I’d also like to thank Senator Blumenthal for his support. My thanks also to Curt Spalding and EPA and Commissioner Klee for hearing my administration’s push for a plan that puts the health and safety of our residents at the forefront of any remediation remedy.

“Getting more than half of the waste removed from our town and having a safe, capped consolidated ballfield that can be reused for a suitable commercial or industrial entity is also a win for Stratford,” he said. “I look forward to working with residents and our state and federal agencies to ensure a safe cleanup process moving forward.”

“Having advocated for a safe, comprehensive cleanup of Raymark waste in our town, we are optimistic with the announcement of this agreement among multiple government levels and agencies, said Erin McLaughlin, co-founder of Save Stratford, in a prepared statement. “We realize there is more work to be done, and we look forward to working with the EPA and the town right through the public hearing process.”

Part of the former plant has already been reclaimed and is the site of the Stratford Square Shopping Center.

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About the author

Bill Fallon
Bill Fallon is editor of the Fairfield County Business Journal. He has worked at Westfair Communications for more than five years, previously editing an upstate New York daily and a national motorcycle magazine in Nevada. He attended Iona Prep in New Rochelle, N.Y., and the University of Virginia.
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