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Waltham

Blasting extended at former Polaroid property

The old Polaroid building being torn down as seen from Rt 128.

Bill Greene/Globe Staff

The old Polaroid building being torn down as seen from Rt 128.

Homes and businesses near the former Polaroid property in Waltham will have to endure months more of daily blasting to clear rock and ledge from the huge construction site along Route 128.

Waltham City Councilor Dan Romard, whose district includes nearby residential and commercial areas, said he was recently informed by the development team that blasting will stretch into next spring.  

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That’s a change in plans, with Romard and other city officials previously being told that the blasting at the construction site would be completed by October.

The prospect of months more of blasting is not going over well with one of the most vocal homeowners near the former Polaroid site, Hagop Hagopian.  

“I am not at all pleased with this,” he said. “It is shaking the house.”

Crews at the redevelopment project began using explosives last spring to remove rocks in preparation for relocating the power lines that crisscross the property. The project’s 280,000-square-foot first phase, slated to start construction next spring, will feature a mix of retail and offices.

Reached about the complaints, developer Sam Park noted that the property is all ledge, making it challenging as a construction site.

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But one reason the blasting is taking longer than anticipated, he said, is that the power of the individual charges has been reduced to limit their impact on nearby homes and businesses. Using smaller explosives means more blasts stretched over a longer period of time are needed to accomplish the work, Park said.

All of the blasting has been well within the limits set out by state law, with seismographs set up to measure the impact, according to Park.

“We are trying to manage the blasting . . . and do it in a way that is least disruptive,” Park said. “It would be easier to go in and do some massive blasting.”

Several homeowners have called the Waltham Fire Department to complain, and a few residents have filed damage claims with the city.

Hagopian contends the repeated blasting caused a 20-pound light fixture to fall to the floor.

“Today’s blast . . . shook my entire home,” Hagopian wrote in an e-mail to Mayor Jeannette McCarthy. “If you’re going to tell me the blasters are within their legal rights, you also have to tell me that I’m being completely unreasonable to want to live in my home without experiencing man-made earthquakes several times a day for years.”  

McCarthy said she is well aware of the problem, and is frequently stopped on the streets by residents with questions and complaints about the blasting.

“Some people stop me in the street and say, ‘Mayor, this is shaking the house.’ They come up to me and say, ‘We love the project but oh my God, the blasting,’” McCarthy said. “I don’t think they knew it was going to be like this.”

City officials say the next step is setting up a neighborhood meeting to discuss the blasting and concerns about it. Romard has begun looking at dates and locations, and hopes to hold the meeting before Christmas.

Still, even as they express concern about the blasting, city officials say their hands are tied when it comes to options on how to deal with it.

The Fire Department has been closely tracking the blasts, plotting them on a seismograph. The blasting has all fallen within the state legal limit, according to city officials.

McCarthy has advised Hagopian and other homeowners to file insurance claims. She said her parents faced similar problems years ago from planes flying overhead from Hanscom Field, damaging the ceilings in their house.

“The real issue is that the state law and regulations do not allow the city to do more, even though we understand the constituents’ anger and frustration,” McCarthy wrote in an e-mail to Hagopian. “I even brought the site manager for the Polaroid project to the Highlands so he could see the area that was being affected.”

While he is concerned about the prolonged blasting, Romard said, the delays are par for the course for a big redevelopment project.

“The fact is that so much of this depends on the weather, and what they find when they get there,” he said.

Scott Van Voorhis can be reached at sbvanvoorhis@hotmail.com.

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