Walpole celebrates EPA Superfund success

The group poses in front of the new senior center. Photos by James Kinneen.

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

When the various Walpole town officials, EPA members and police officers that showed up to celebrate the success of the Blackburn and Union Privileges Superfund site went on a walk to examine the new senior center, police station and remediation of Lewis Pond on Thursday morning, you’d be forgiven if you mistook the walking tour for a victory lap.

But, having turned a dangerous site that had been used for industrial purposes since the 17th century and was polluted with contaminants like asbestos, lead, arsenic and nickel into a beautiful new pillar of the community, it would be hard to blame them if it was.

Celebrating its 20th year, the EPA Superfund Redevelopment Initiative was launched in 1999 to return formerly contaminated lands to long-term and sustainable places of reuse. Established by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, Superfund both allows the EPA to clean the sites and forces the responsible parties to pay for the cleanup, or clean the site themselves. In the case of the Blackburn and Union Privileges site, a $13m settlement was reached with four parties responsible for the contamination in 2010.

At a brief reception at the Walpole Co-Operative Bank South Street Center, many speakers celebrated the project and noted its length - but nearly everyone that spoke of the project’s success mentioned how many different people and moving parts came together to make it happen.

Town Administrator Jim Johnson remarked that “The Town of Walpole was extremely fortunate to be able to partner with the EPA and the responsible parties to clean up a blighted section of land along South Street in Walpole. This project is a great example of what can be accomplished when all parties come together to clean up a Superfund site.“

“I’m very excited that the partnerships have made this happen,” remarked EPA New England Region Acting Administrator Deb Szaro. “The federal, state, local partnerships, along with private industry, have really redeveloped a blighted area into something that’s productively reused, and that’s the whole beauty of the Superfund Program. From the federal level, it was the EPA - you had the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection that was uniquely situated with us to work on this. You had the town of Walpole and various entities within the town, the town manager, and health director all working on this together. And then whatever private donations they got to help support building these buildings played a role, as well.”

Robin Chapell speaks of Cliff Snuffer’s contributions during the reception.

Robin Chapell speaks of Cliff Snuffer’s contributions during the reception.

After the reception, the crowd was invited to tour the senior center, police station and pond. After seeing the senior center, bocce courts, and walking path, Szaro joked that she “may have to move to Walpole just to come here” - before being quickly corrected by a colleague that she’s not old enough.

During the tour of the police station’s holding cells, Officer Joe Zanghetti noted that at the old police station, officers had trouble processing criminals; on more than one occasion, a suspect was able to run out the door and had to be chased down the street. The new facility has eliminated this problem.

For years, Walpole town officials, the EPA and various private businesses came together to turn a contaminated and dangerous lot into a senior center, new police station and clean body of water that benefits the people of Walpole.

On Thursday, August 1, they came together to deservedly celebrate their achievement.

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