Removal Set To Begin of Highway Debris Pile

Removal of a large pile of construction debris containing asbestos at the Rte. 1 and Rte. 16 interchange should begin on Friday, according to City Manager Thomas Ambrosino.

City officials were first made aware of the debris, which is close to Chelsea Housing Authority apartments, last week after an inquiry was made by a WBZ news reporter. The debris pile is from a MassDOT bridge project at the Lynn-Saugus line.

In an update to the City Council on Monday night, Ambrosino said that independent testing thus far near the pile and in housing authority apartments have come back negative and that there is no danger to the public.

Ambrosino also outlined the events of the past week, from when he was first made aware of the debris on Tuesday, May 2. He said he immediately reached out to the MassDOT, as well as state and local legislators, the attorney general’s office, and MassDEP about the incident.

“It is hard for me to overstate how much I expressed to (the MassDOT) the city’s anger, disgust, and absolute moral outrage at dumping this type of material in an environmental justice community adjacent to a public housing authority complex,” said Ambrosino. “Leaving that aside, because at some point we will have further conversations with MassDOT about this and ensuring that it doesn’t happen again, my exclusive focus last week and right now is getting rid of this material. We demanded that MassDOT provide us with a written letter identifying what they had done, apologizing for their lack of communication to the city and for their conduct, and giving us an expedited schedule for removal of the material.”

On Friday, May 6, Ambrosino said the city received a schedule stating that MassDOT was immediately beginning the preliminary process of preparing the materials for removal, with material beginning to be trucked away on Friday, May 13.

“Because this is asbestos contaminated material, it does have to be sent out of state to landfills, and that is a process that requires a lot of trucking,” said Ambrosino.

MassDOT estimated it would take about 30 days to remove all the material, according to Ambrosino.

The city’s independent licensed site professional (LSP) will be on site during that time monitoring the activity and performing soil and air quality testing, Ambrosino said.

“I will say that one piece of good news is that thus far, there isn’t any danger to public health to any of our residents or to anyone else,” said Ambrosino. “We will continue to test both at the Chelsea Housing Authority site and on the dumping site itself through the course of this removal activity, and we will report our findings from that independent LSP to the City Council.”

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