Cleanup of buildings at the controversial General Chemical Corp. site in south Framingham will start Monday, after the state Department of Environmental Protection reviewed air monitoring performed during a test cleanup and determined that the work could be safely done.
The goal, according to the state, is to finish this phase of decontamination by Aug. 15, before school starts next door at the Woodrow Wilson Elementary School.
In recent weeks, Framingham officials and residents have voiced several complaints about how the cleanup of the hazardous-waste management facility is being handled. They have also expressed concern over what they say is lackluster communication with the neighborhood, which has many low-income residents and a large number of people whose first language is not English.
Ethan Mascoop, Framingham’s director of public health, has been pushing for Department of Environmental Protection staff to be present during the cleanup.
“We suggested it was important to have someone there at all times,” he said in a phone interview last week. “We really do feel that General Chemical is not trustworthy.”
‘We’re very confident that the cleaning will not have any concern of getting near health levels.’
Mascoop said that characterization comes from violations at the site during its operation.
The New Jersey-based company filed a notice of closure for the Leland Street facility on March 1, after years of complaints from neighbors and increasing pressure from the town. General Chemical did not return calls for comment.
Last week, the Department of Environmental Protection released a community announcement, translated into Spanish and Portuguese, that explained the next steps in the cleanup.
The department will oversee the air monitoring, both on the site and at the fence lining the 2-acre property, observe critical cleaning activities, perform routine and unannounced site inspections, and regularly update Framingham officials, according to the announcement.
Mascoop said he is pushing for more monitoring, and is hopeful the state will provide more than originally planned.
He said the department’s latest communication — covering a complicated subject that has to be conveyed in multiple languages — with the community seems to be more successful.
“Certainly this is better,” Mascoop said. “There’s no question in my mind that they are working hard on it.”
In addition to cleaning inside the buildings, which will include power washing the walls and floors, General Chemical workers will dismantle the facility’s waste storage tanks. (All of the hazardous waste and other materials have been removed, according to the state.)
Monitoring for air pollution will be conducted during the work, the department said.
“The project will be shut down immediately if the work results in pollution levels approaching cause for concern,” according to the department’s community announcement.
The DEP is emphasizing that monitoring for volatile organic compounds and air pollutants released during a test cleaning June 26 revealed no problems.
“We’re very confident in the numbers we got,” said Ed Coletta, an agency spokesman. “We’re very confident that the cleaning will not have any concern of getting near health levels.”
The department did some air monitoring to double check what General Chemical did, and the state’s results “mirrored” what the company logged, he said.
“As an extra precaution, residents near the facility may choose to keep windows closed and avoid the playground at the nearby Woodrow Wilson School during the cleaning project,” according to the community announcement.
The Department of Environmental Protection has approved the work to take place Monday through Saturday, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., with noisy activity restricted to between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The work does not include groundwater cleanup, which is expected to be more complicated and to take much longer.
For more information, visit www.mass.gov/dep.