City, GreenRoots Outline Action Items for Tobin Bridge Lead Issues

The initial clean up of lead paint chips from the Tobin Bridge has been completed by the state, but the city and several local and state organizations are still deeply concerned about the decades-long impact to the community of the lead paint issue with the bridge.

In March, the city, GreenRoots, the Massachusetts Conservation Law Foundation, and the BU School of Public Health contacted state Transportation Secretary Gina Fiandaca and highway administrator Jonathan Gulliver with concerns about an inordinate amount of lead paint chips falling from the bridge.

State officials quickly acted to meet with the city about the issue, commenced a clean up program, and Fiandaca and Gulliver attended an April 13 GreenRoots meeting to discuss short- and long-term remediation issues.

On Friday, May 5, representatives from the city, GreenRoots, CLF, and the BU School of Public Health sent a follow up letter to Fiandaca and Gulliver to discuss continuing concerns stemming from lead paint on the Tobin Bridge.

The letter contains a list of 13 action items that those groups stated require immediate action.

“Clean-up for paint chips throughout Chelsea neighborhoods has been completed by MassDOT, yet paint chips continue to fall on our streets, sidewalks, and private property adjacent to the bridge,” the letter states. “To avert additional toxic exposure, dedicated cleanup crews are needed to continuously remove fallen paint chips from the affected neighborhoods until the bridge has been fully encapsulated.”

There is also a request that the sides and underside of the bridge be immediately encapsulated to prevent further paint chips from falling into the community.

In addition, the letter states that GreenRoots and other community organizations have received no recent updates on remediation work and timelines for work, and requested more outreach, as well as a multilingual website that would provide updates and a greater commitment to providing information in multiple languages.

“The presentation and slide deck presented at the community meeting on April 13, 2023 was monolingual, a clear violation of the environmental justice principles of the State of Massachusetts and the Climate Roadmap Bill; and an insult to our community and GreenRoots’ language justice values,” the letter stated. “The slide deck should have been presented in at least two languages. This violation of language access must never occur again.”

The MassDOT, in coordination with EPA Region 1’s mobile lead testing van, must offer lead testing for any and all private and public properties in Chelsea, the community partners went on to state. They stated the  testing should occur on several days over the course of a full month. Additionally, they stated any soil containing lead, above MassDEP background levels, from properties alongside the Tobin Bridge, must be fully remediated by MassDOT within 30 days of test results and the remediation methods must be shared and discussed with GreenRoots and the City of Chelsea.

Additional requested action items include that MassDOT coordinate with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to offer free, mobile blood lead testing for any residents and stakeholders in Chelsea interested in

determining their lead exposure. This mobile testing also should be offered for at least 30 days. The letter states that MassDOT, in collaboration with MA DPH and community stakeholders, must determine how to provide free health care support and access for any resident, particularly children,

whose blood tests presented elevated lead levels.

The organizations state that MassDOT must expedite full lead paint removal to begin no later than September 1, 2023 from any and all parts of the Tobin Bridge and underpasses including underpasses at Rte. 16 and Webster Avenue, Everett Avenue and Chestnut Street, and 2nd Street and Chestnut Avenue.

“The $1 million ‘grant’ program presented by MassDOT at the community meeting for all properties impacted by lead paint stemming from the Tobin Bridge, must be increased to $15 million for affected residents and businesses, without requiring residents to forego or waive other rights or remedies,” the letter states, concluding with stating that MassDOT must explain in writing how and by whom the decision was made to not de-lead the Tobin Bridge spans in Chelsea, closest to residences.

GreenRoots Executive Director Roseann Bongiovanni said Fiandaca stated she had received the letter last Friday and would get back to Bongiovanni with a response. As of Wednesday morning, there had not been a response, according to Bongiovanni.

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