Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Paving starts at transfer site despite lack of drain system

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After years of wrangling, paving work has begun on a contentious 26-acre automobile-to-rail transfer facility off Willow Road in Ayer, Mass., owned by Billerica-based Pan Am Railways, the Lowell Sun reports. But news of the paving isn't sitting well with the state Department of Environmental Protection and federal Environmental Protection Agency officials. Environmental officials are calling out Pan Am for beginning to pave without stormwater-management devices in place. As a result, the attorney general is also investigating whether the start of work without "best management" stormwater controls in place violates the terms of the Pan Am's probation in Middlesex Superior Court.

On March 31, Pan Am was slapped with a $500,000 corporate criminal fine, the largest in state history, for the coverup of an August 2006 spill of more than 900 gallons of diesel fuel from an idling locomotive in Ayer. The railway remains on probation for three years.

Pan Am's alleged failure to stick to accepted construction plans, as provided for in the terms of the its probation, is being reviewed by Attorney General Martha Coakley's office, according to Andrew Rainer, chief of Coakley's Environmental Strike Force.

In a Sept. 18 letter to Pan Am Railway President David Fink, DEP Regional Director Martin Suuberg and EPA Regional Counsel Carl Dierker said they are "disappointed" Pan Am failed to appear at a Sept. 17 meeting in Worcester. The meeting was to iron out stormwater management at the environmentally sensitive site.

So far, Ayer officials have been cautious not to cross Pan Am's path in the aftermath of extended litigation over the site, which was halted by a Consent Decree in 2003. The 17-point agreement requires a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan be in place before construction begins.

Yesterday, Ayer DPW Superintendent Dan Nason confirmed paving had begun.

Nason says railroad representatives told him a stormwater filtration device is on order but has yet to arrive. In the meantime, there's been no date set for another railway meeting.

In a separate letter to the Surface Transportation Board, DEP and EPA representatives asked for the railway arbiter be involved in the oversight process as work gets under way.

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