WOBURN - City officials will move ahead in the coming weeks with the design and permitting phases for the proposed restoration of wetlands by the Shaker Glen Conservation area and the construction of a new Scalley Dam fish bypass into Horn Pond.

During their latest meeting in City Hall, the City Council voted unanimously and without debate to accept $534,235 in Industri-Plex superfund site settlement money and other outside grant funding that has been received for both projects.

According to an early March memo from Mayor Scott Galvin, around $218,000 of the design funding has been sent to Woburn as part of a $4.25 million settlement reached in 2013 between federal officials and two pharmaceutical conglomerates that owned contaminated land at the 200-plus acre Industri-Plex superfund site off of Presidential Way.

The remainder of the funding was awarded to Woburn by the North American Wetlands Council.

In total, the city is expected to receive $3 million from the decade-old superfund legal settlement, which must be spent towards rehabilitating and improving portions of the Aberjona River Watershed that were damaged by the environmental disaster. Another $675,000 will be heading to neighboring Winchester for a riverside habitat rehabilitation project by Davidson Park.

“I am requesting that the City Council vote to accept Woburn’s eligible grant share of funds awarded and received to date from the Industri-Plex Trustee Council in the amount of $124,700 for design and permitting at The Shaker Glen Restoration Project and $93,900 for the design and permitting of the Scalley Dam Fishway Project.

In addition. I am requesting the City Council accept $80,635 in grant funding from The North American Wetlands Council for design and permitting of the Scalley Dam Fishway Project and $235,000 for design and grading at The Shaker Glen Restoration Project.

Shaker Glen project

With a $2 million budget - based on pre-pandemic estimates - the Shaker Glen restoration project is expected to alleviate flooding in the city’s West Side by Lexington Street and Cambridge Road by adding stormwater storage capacity on land by the Four Corners and 20-acre Shaker Glen Conservation site.

Back in the summer of 2021, the City Council took a major step towards making the project a reality by accepting a gift of 12-acres of land by Russell Street that was owned by Woburn’s prominent DeMoulas family.

Under the proposed project, a portion of the Shaker Glen Brook that was diverted away from the land back in the 1950s in order to construct a since shuttered bowling alley will be restored. In order to accomplish that feat, the city will demolish the last remnants of the dilapidated attraction, which including the building’s foundation and an estimated 40,000 square feet of broken pavement that surrounded the bowling alley.

A 20,000 square foot stormwater treatment system, as well as a new berm to divert rainflows, would also be installed to treat runoff from Russell Street before it enters the brook. Lastly, in an attempt to reduce flooding in and around the Four Corners area, a new 10-foot by six-foot box culvert would be installed to replace an old 60-inch stream culvert in the area.

“The project has the potential to create 75,000 sq.ft. of wetland habitat to expand the existing 100,000 sq. ft. that currently exists in the Shaker Glen conservation area (located upstream, but adjacent to the project site),” an old 2020 narrative of the proposed project explains.

“Stormwater will be redirected from Russell Street and into approximately a 20,000 square foot nature-based stormwater treatment area. This will provide additional pollutant removal before stormwater enters Shaker Glen Brook. A berm on the eastern portion of the site will retain water, slowly releasing it into the surrounding wetlands,” the project description continues.

Scalley Dam project

Expected to cost around $1 million, the construction of a new fish ladder at Scalley Dam is expected to further facilitate the return of Alewife and Blueback herring and American eel species to Horn Pond during their annual spawning seasons.

In 2018, local environmentalists celebrated the return of both the Alewife and Blueback ocean herring to Horn Pond for the first time in a near century. The milestone, made possible thanks to the construction of a riprap bypass challenge that runs northeast of the dam spillway, was reached after a series of other downstream obstructions were removed Mystic River area waterways.

Last November, the Mass. Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF), the state agency charged with managing the state’s commercial and recreational fishing grounds, reported that a record 445,000 river herring passed into the Mystic Lakes and Horn Pond in Woburn last summer.

Between 20,000 to 25,000 herring have reportedly been making the upstream swim to Horn Pond in Woburn since the bypass opened, according to DMF estimates.

Proponents of the $1 million fish ladder project say the improved Horn Pond access could eventually allow up to 500,000 to enter the waterway during future spawning seasons.

“The fishway will likely be sited west of Scalley Dam, opposite the existing bypass channel,” a project narrative released by the city in September of 2021 reads. “The design for the site may incorporate a camera and viewing area for the public to view migrating fish, and a bioswale or rain garden at the adjacent parking lot to reduce the discharge of stormwater runoff and associated pollutants into Horn Pond.”

Industri-Plex history

Federal officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) say that between 1853 and 1969, toxic glues and contaminates like arsenic, chromium, and lead were dumped into pits and lagoons scattered all around the sensitive Aberjona River Watershed.

The $4.25 million Industri-plex settlement was reached in 2013 with Bayer Cropsciences Inc. and Pharmacy Corp., the two corporations which eventually came to own the surviving entities deemed responsible for the polluting the 200-plus acre site.

In total, more than 80 companies which operated in the area over a 130-year period are suspected of being responsible for the massive pollution plume. As significant portion of subsurface contaminated soils have been isolated by an impermeable cap or barrier that is roughly bounded by the Anderson Regional Transportation Center site, Presidential Way, and several properties that abut Commerce Way heading towards the Woburn Village site off Mishawum Road.

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