EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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August 10, 2013

Settlement pending in water tank sludge case

ANDOVER — The town has reached a settlement with Bancroft Road resident James Berberian on a federal lawsuit he filed after water department employees allegedly dumped toxic sludge into wetlands on his property in 2010.

The Board of Selectmen voted 5-0 during a meeting Thursday morning to accept the agreement, which was brokered between Town Counsel Tom Urbelis, special counsel Tom Gorman and Berberian’s attorney, Joseph Wadland.

Because the agreement includes a payout of an undetermined amount, the meeting was also attended by Finance Committee Chairman Jon Stumpf along with Assistant Town Manager Steve Bucuzzo.

The vote came after the board met behind closed doors to discuss the agreement. It was one of many executive sessions the board has held in recent weeks to discuss the lawsuit, originally filed in U.S. District Court on Feb. 8, 2012 and amended on May 9, 2013.

Details of the agreement are not being made public until after it is signed by both sides.

In the lawsuit, Berberian claims that during a three-day period in 2012 — from Nov. 10 to 12, town water department employees dumped thousands of gallons of water from a 6 million-gallon storage tank adjacent to the Bancroft School into a storm drain.

The tank was being drained so the sludge that settles to the bottom could be cleaned out. Berberian claims in the lawsuit that the sludge was also pumped into the storm drain, and that it contained traces of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, nickel and lead, as well as less harmful minerals like manganese and iron.

Some of the material, according to the lawsuit, was taken away in trucks. But the lawsuit claims there are no records of where the material was dumped.

Much of the material went downhill toward South Main Street/Route 28, then crossed under Bancroft Road and entered the wetland area adjacent to 2-4 Bancroft Road, which is where Berberian lives.

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