Monthly Archives: October 2011

Town opts to postpone Halloween

The town opted this morning to postpone Medfield’s celebration of Halloween until Friday, because of the ongoing issues related to the storm.  I was told that the administrators, public safety and department heads were conferring and felt that prudence and safety should control.  There apparently continue to be downed and leaning tree limbs, downed wires, and widespread electrical outages.  The safety of the children has to be the the paramount underlying consideration, as we cannot afford even one unexpected event.  However. that does not avoid the fact that any such change is bound to inconvenience people  and their children, for which effects the town should be sorry.

Follow Town of Medfield on Twitter

The Town of Medfield has created a Twitter account to notify residents of important issues.  To follow @TownofMedfield, go to  https://twitter.com/#!/search/realtime/TownofMedfield%20  Yesterday the schools website was down, and not all town workers had power to get notices posted on the town’s website, so the situation highlighted the need for a way to communicate with residents in an emergency.  Twitter should be a good vehicle, as people can access it from cell phones even when their power is out.

Since learning of Twitter, I have been using @Medfield to inform people of what I learn as a selectman, and I offered to give that name to the Town of Medfield to use, if they wanted it.

Weekly Political Report – Week Ending October 28, 2011

Congressman John Olver to Retire in 2012

Congressman John Olver (D- Amherst), who has served 11 terms in the US House of Representatives, announced plans this week to retire at the end of the current session. Cong. Olver’s departure will significantly impact state lawmakers’ decisions on how to redraw the Commonwealth’s 10 Congressional districts into 9.  Until now, the redistricting committee has been operating on assertions from all 10 members of the state’s U.S. House delegation that they will run for reelection next year. Massachusetts will lose one seat due to population shifts nationwide.

 

Alan Khazei Drops Out of Senate Race

Alan Khazei, the co-founder of City Year, announced this week that he was officially dropping out of the U.S. Senate Democratic primary race. Consumer advocate and Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren, State Representative Thomas Conroy (D- Wayland), immigration attorney Marisa DeFranco, Boston attorney Jim King and engineer Herb Robinson are the remaining candidates for the Democratic Primary.

 

House and Senate Plan Tuesday Redistricting Debate

The House Speaker announced that debate on proposed House and Senate districts, which were released last week by the Redistricting Committee, will begin on Tuesday.  The House adopted an order that sets a deadline of today at 5 p.m. for legislators to submit amendments to the proposed maps. The order stipulates that any amendment altering the construction of a House district must remain within plus or minus 5 percent of the ideal district size of 40,923. The order also indicates that House leadership will dispense with amendments by packaging proposals into consolidated amendments, a process that features debate behind the scenes on amendments and presentation of a single consensus. The Senate will also start debate on proposed Senate district maps on Tuesday, with amendments due by Monday at noon.

 

MassINC Poll Gauges Outlook of Massachusetts Residents

A poll released by centrist think tank MassINC shows that Massachusetts residents are split over whether the state is on the right or wrong track and remain pessimistic about the economy.  The poll, which interviewed 500 residents, found that 47 percent of respondents said they were worse off financially today than a year ago, with 27 percent saying they were in about the same situation and 25 percent saying they are better off today.  54 percent said they believe they will be in the same financial shape in the future, 21 percent said they’ll be better off and 18 percent predicted they would be worse off.  The poll also found the following favorable-unfavorable splits: Patrick, 51/36; Brown, 47/30; Kerry, 53/29; Warren, 32/14; and Tea Party, 28/42. Brown’s favorable number was down 10 points from a September 2010 poll and Patrick’s favorable number was up 9 points over that same period.

 

Governor Patrick Signs Supplemental Budget

On Thursday Gov. Patrick signed a supplemental budget allocating the $460 million in surplus funds that remained when Fiscal Year 2011 ended on July 1.  The bill deposits $350 million into the state’s rainy day fund, bringing the current balance to almost $1.4 billion, appropriates $65 million in local aid for cities and towns and $39 million for infrastructure projects.

 

 

John Nunnari, Assoc AIA
Executive Director, AIA MA
jnunnari@architects.org
617-951-1433 x263
617-951-0845 (fax)

MA Chapter of American Institute of Architects
The Architects Building
52 Broad Street, Boston MA 02109-4301
www.architects.org

 

 

Pros and cons of elected vs. appointed town clerks

Thanks to town clerk, Carol Mayer, I have posted a setof pros and cons of having elected versus appointed town clerks.  See http://medfield02052.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/town-clerks-elected-vs-appointed.pdf

DEP denies DCAM IRA extension

DEP yesterday denied DCAM’s request for an extension of time t respond to the Immediate Response Action in the Charles River.  DEP telegraphed this result at the 10/13/11 site visit.  DEP has required an amended plan by 11/21/11, which includes plans to monitor the oil in the reiver until it is removed next year.

A copy of the DEP letter has been posted at http://medfield02052.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/20111026-dep-medfield-ira-ext-denial.pdf

Our civil justice system

Susan Saladoff, director of “Hot Coffee The Movie,” appeared on last night’s Colbert Report to discuss the civil justice system and tort reform.  See it here <http://www.hulu.com/watch/293305/the-colbert-report-susan-saladoff#s-p1-sr-i1&gt;

Aquablok manufacturer weighs in

Emails from AquaBlok company

==========================

From: jcollins@aquablokinfo.com Patch – Peterson: DCAM Reportedly Has Withdrawn its Application to the Army Corps of Engineers
To: osler.peterson@verizon.net
Sent: 10/25/2011 4:49PM
Subject:

Peterson: DCAM Reportedly Has Withdrawn its Application to the Army Corps of Engineers

It is a shame that some feel it is necessary to create a situation where capping with AquaBlok is the “bad guy” – when, by fighting and eliminating the pursuit of this approach now, you will only create more and ongoing damage to be done to habitat and the river – in the interest of doing what is believed to be a “better” clean-up. We always find it ironic that it is somehow better to wait (and allow ongoing damage to the environment to occur), particularly when there is not funding, a time-line or an engineered design in place that can be argued to be superior to what has been proposed. I don’t see much in the way of logic or science here – just an effective way to use words that bring an emotional response to achieve what you want – regardless of whether it is a scientifically defendable position. If you care to know of how protective the suggested approach would have been – regardless of whether it is temporary or permanent – I’d be happy to share some information. However, I doubt that this is important – since it is really just the “idea” that capping is bad which is being put forth – not the reality of the relative effectiveness of the result. John Collins 419-402-4170
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10/25/2011  5:06PM
MSH – Medfield State Hospital Reuse
Patch – Peterson: DCAM Reportedly Has Withdrawn its Application to the Army Corps of Engineers, ,

Mr. Collins,

Thanks for your email.

Our town’s issue was a choice by the state to cap, versus a preference by the town to have the permanent solution be to remove oil in the Charles River that has been there for almost 40 years.  The Town of Medfield took no real stance with respect to the Aquablok, except to prefer removal.  Another branch of the state has now told the first branch of the state that they will have to remove the oil next year, and the Town of Medfield’s position then became that we do not care whether you cap this year or not, but that it just seems like a waste of money to cap with Aquablok this year and remove both the oil and Aquablok next year, especially where the oil has been there undisturbed for so long already.

I am sure that Aquablok is a fine product, and I have been interested in learning what little I have to date about it.  Congratulations on a successful product.

Best,
Pete
Osler L. Peterson

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From: “John Collins – aquablokinfo.com”
To: “Osler L. Peterson”
Sent: 10/25/2011 6:12PM
Subject: RE:

Mr. Osler,

I very much appreciate your response.  I think I should clarify some of my comments.

My concern lies with the “perception” that it is better to remove than cap.  This is simply not technically or scientifically correct in many cases.  This preference for removal has been the cause for continuing and ongoing ecological damage to sediment-based habitat (and therefore the foodchain) at many sites around the country.  I simply believe that a “preference” for removal should be more informed.  Instead it is common for opponents of capping to use inflammatory and mis-leading statements to better serve their arguments.

A perfect example of this is the statement in your blog:

“That covering of the oil was something the Medfield Board of Selectmen had stated from the outset was the wrong approach, as removal was the proper fix, and now that the covering was only to be short term it was not only unnecessary, but it was also a waste of state monies.”

These words are first and foremost not technically or scientifically accurate, but more importantly they are clearly intended to elicit an emotional response – i.e. “covering” something up is bad – we all know that.  Obviously, whether intended or not, AquaBlok is getting painted with this brush.

I can provide you many examples of cases where removal actually increased damage to the habitat and simply exposed other nearby ecosystems to unhealthy levels of water-borne contaminants.  It is very common to see fish tissue levels of contamination increase as a result of a removal effort.

I would also take issue with the assumption that the contamination can somehow be better or more safely contained on land vs. in place.  Our products employ the same materials used to line landfills only we use 10 to 100 more and actually provide a level of protection well beyond what regulations call for in a land-fill.  When this material is protected by a properly engineered armor approach, it is as stable and isolated from exposure as it would be in a landfill or other type of engineered containment system.

As for the state’s decision, it is very likely that this decision was influenced significantly by local interests – as I’ve seen this happen many times in the past.  We have spent years doing technical presentations to State and Federal level environmental regulators (who will agree with many of the above points when we talk to them), only to see then again and again default to removal when local interests voice a very strong preference for that approach.

The irony in all of this is that one of the most common uses of AquaBlok is as a post-removal cap.  This is because it is often difficult, if not impossible to remove ALL of the residual contamination in a case like yours.  Therefore, at some point economics dictate that you must stop digging and put down a barrier material to minimize the potential of future impacts from residual contaminants.  My question is simply – why dig in the first place when it is possible to create a safe/stable engineered barrier to eliminate exposure or risk of spread of contamination?  The answer is simple – because this would make it a ‘cover up’.

AquaBlok is a technically proven product that has been evaluated by the federal EPA and used at numerous sites in the New England area.  It has been approved for use by MADEP and was most recently installed on a large scale in the New Bedford Harbor to address oil-based contaminants.  There is no reason for the Town of Medfield to view this remedy as somehow inferior to removal – from the standpoint of risk reduction or protection of our ecosystem.

An opinion is an opinion – I’m not trying to change yours.  However, when our approach is incorrectly characterized in the above manner – I feel compelled to at least defend the technical merit of the approach.

Thanks for your time.

John

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October 26, 2011
Perhaps I’m and idealist, but I sure think it would be nice if people in a position to influence public opinion would attempt to get the education before attempting to sway a decision in a particular manner.

At this point, you’ve accomplished your goal.

For what it’s worth, my prediction on this site is that nothing will be done for years to come.  The cost to do the removal the town desires is far too expensive and DCAM will have no alternative to stall and or challenge the approach – since they will not have enough resources to pay.  It will likely end up in litigation (which may be a good outcome from a lawyers perspective).

Of course we all know that the State economy is not in much better shape, so if the faint hope is that there is funding or grants that are available from that source it will take years of applications and hard work by someone in Medfield to work this through the process – in the meantime, nothing will be done.

Bottom line – the Board of Selectmen elected to successfully fight against a funded plan (which is protective, but perhaps not idea) in exchange for uncertainty and likely years of continued exposure to contamination.  So, I guess this will be considered a victory – at least for now.

What I can’t understand is why parties with a common goal can’t just sit down together and discuss specific aspects of a funded plan to compromise and still make something good happen?  It would have been easy to do in this case.  Why is all or nothing a better outcome?

John