Chelsea Conservation Commission says “No”

The Chelsea Conservation Commission (ConCom) last week voted down Massport’s plans to store contaminated dredge from the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal dredging project in the Chelsea Creek.

The plan was to store the contaminated dredge in what are called Confined Aquatic Disposal Cells, or CAD Cells, and place those cells in the creek. There was widespread opposition to the plan from environmental activists in both Chelsea and East Boston.

However, a similar CAD Cell program occurred a few years back when the Army Corp of Engineers was dredging the Conley Terminal. The City of Chelsea at that time allowed CAD Cells to be placed in the creek, following the City of Boston’s lead that allowed for CAD Cells to be placed in the Boston Harbor.

When wind of a second plan to place for contaminated dredge into the creek, those who have worked hard for environmental justice along what was once one of the most polluted bodies of water in New England were outraged.

Last week’s Chelsea ConCom vote was a major victory for those activists.

“The Chelsea Green Space Committee and its partners on the Chelsea Creek Action Group were thrilled with the Chelsea Conservation Commission’s decision to not amend Massport’s permits that would allow the Authority to dump additional contaminated dredge material in the Chelsea Creek,” said Roseann Bongiovanni of the Chelsea Collaborative. “We have been reaching out to Massport for more than 6 months to better understand the project, its impacts on the Creek and adjacent community and what mitigation the Authority is planning for this work. To our surprise, Massport simply ignored our meeting requests, yet they want to dump even more contaminated dredged soils in our Creek? It’s so infuriating.”

During an EPA meeting on the project last year, Chelsea residents reminded attendees about concerns raised that MassPort had not contacted or engaged the CAD Cell project’s Steering Committee or Mystic River advocacy groups during the planning or decision making process that resulted in the decision to transfer dredged material from the Boston Harbor to CAD Cells in the creek.

There were also concerns at that meeting that the communities of the Chelsea Creek and Mystic River are making a large contribution by having the dredge materials deposited in their waterways but they are not directly receiving any benefit for that action.

It seems now Massport will have to go back to the drawing board.

“The maintenance dredging project is being done at the Black Falcon cruise terminal,” said Massport spokesman Matt Brelis. “It is similar to work done last year at Conley Terminal, where overtime, berths fill with surface sediment that runs into the harbor during storms. Last year, both Boston and Chelsea approved the storage of the dredged Conley sediment in a cell in Chelsea Creek. Boston has approved an amendment to that permit to allow the Black Falcon sediment to be disposed of in the same manner. Because Chelsea did not approve the amendment, Massport is considering its options.”

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