By Mark E. Vogler
---- — LAWRENCE — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached a tentative settlement with Pacific Mills Acquisition LLC, to recover $300,000 in agency costs for cleaning up a hazardous waste mess left behind by a now-defunct metal plating company.
It costs the EPA $600,500 in 2005 to complete a cleanup of the Bay State Plating and Polishing Superfund Site, located on the third floor of Building 6 at 300 Canal St.
The site is on the property of a former mill, currently known as the Pacific Mills Industrial Complex, which houses a number of commercial tenants.
EPA officials have agreed to release a lien the agency holds on the property in exchange for reimbursement of about half of the government’s costs for the clean up. The agency noted in its proposed settlement agreement that Pacific Mills Acquisition LLC “has demonstrated a limited ability to pay” and that the proposed agreement “represents a fair and reasonable compromise of EPA’s past costs.”
When Bay State Plating and Polishing Inc. went out of business in 2004, it left behind chemicals, rinse solutions, and numerous waste drums in the building. The wastes included more than 5,000 gallons of acids and highly poisonous chemicals stored in open and leaking containers.
The metal plating company occupied two rooms on the third floor of Building 6. After the company was evicted, investigators found some 400 open vats and containers holding sulfuric, hydrochloric and nitric acids along with three forms of cyanide and various alkaloids.
The highly corrosive chemicals, used in chrome and nickel-plating processes, had eaten through some of the containers and were seeping into the floor, the EPA said. Piles of metallic dust left alongside polishing machines also presented a breathing hazard, according to agency officials.
“If those chemicals were allowed to mix, it could be very dangerous,” Mary Ellen Stanton, an EPA investigator said in a 2005 interview.
“There could be fires or explosions or toxic vapor. It’s a very serious situation,” she said, noting the fumes could also have killed anyone who inhaled them.
EPA clean up crews cordoned off the two rooms used by Bay State Plating and Polishing with plastic and installed exhaust fans to prevent fumes and dust from leaking into other parts of the building. The agency also installed air monitors in surrounding businesses. Workers with respirators and chemical-protection suits drained the drums and vats into plastic drums for off-site disposal or recycling.
Bay State Plating and Polishing chrome-plated motorcycle and car parts in the building, operating from 1997 to July 2004, when it was evicted by Pacific Mills Acquisition LLC for non-payment of rent for nearly a year. Marc L’Italien of Reading, was Bay State’s president and W. Conrad Duffy, of Salem, N.H., served as the company’s treasurer, according to documents kept by the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Corporation Division.
The proposed Consent Agreement is subject to a 30-day public comment period, announced in the Federal Register, which will end on Feb. 25. Link to the proposed settlement: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=EPA_FRDOC_0001-13584.
The EPA may modify or even withdraw its consent to the settlement agreement “if comments received disclose facts or considerations which indicate that the settlement is inappropriate, improper or inadequate,” according to a recent posting in the Federal Register.
Interested citizens can obtain a copy of the proposed agreement from Ann Gardner, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region I, 5 Post Office Square, Suite 100, Mail Code OES 4-4, Boston, Mass. 02109-3912 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.