Transforming to Transrail

Olin Corporation sits shuttered behind a fence off Eames Street.

Olin Chemical site

WILMINGTON – A letter to the Board of Selectmen was presented at Monday’s meeting outlining a March 4th meeting between Town Manager Jeffrey Hull and New England Transrail (NET) with the purpose of understanding their proposed plans for the Olin Chemical Corporation site.

NET plans to purchase the property from Olin for the purpose of constructing a rail-to-truck transloading operation using 32 acres of the 50+ acre site. Items to be off loaded to boxcars, tractor-trailer trucks, and tanker cars potentially include plastic pellets and magnesium chloride.

Hull met with Robert Jones, III and Ronald Klempner, Managing Principals with NET, as well as DPW Director Michael Woods, Health Director Shelley Newhouse, Planning and Conservation Director Valerie Gingrich, Town Counsel Daniel Deutsch and Joel Trifilio, a senior geologist with GeoInsight.

NET Representatives stated that solid waste transfer and transfer of oil/petroleum are “off the table.” Robert Klempner, one of the Managing Principals with NET, stated that they are planning to establish an area to service both their own rail cars and rail cars owned by other parties.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that the actively used portion of the site have what is termed “an impervious surface” in order to guard against groundwater contamination. The designated area for off loading of tanker cars is planned to be impervious and surrounded by a ‘berm’ (a small hill or wall of dirt or sand) intended to contain any potential spill. NET’s plan also includes establishing multiple access points for testing of groundwater if required by the EPA.

The plan is for 20 to 25 rail cars to come into the site daily, six days per week, with an expected arrival of between 5:30 am and 6:00 am to transfer material and move to the final destination estimated to be within 2 hours of Wilmington. Each car is expected to contain 3 ½ truckloads of material. Trucks would return and reload for a second delivery with operations expected to conclude by 4:00 pm each day.

According to NET estimates, there would be roughly 90 trucks leaving twice per day or approximately 180 truck trips per day.

Jim DiLorenzo, EPA Project Manager for the Olin site, had informed Town Manager Hull via memorandum back in November of 2014 that New England Transrail had requested to meet with the EPA to discuss the Olin property.

The now inactive Olin Chemical facility encompasses a 53-acre parcel located at 51 Eames Street in Wilmington. The area is now completely fenced, however, concerns about chemical waste have been ongoing.

Olin has had a longstanding purchase and sale agreement with Transrail, said DiLorenzo. It appears Olin is ready to transfer the property, though a cleanup plan has not yet been identified. The EPA holds a lien on the property, which they would need to relinquish in order for the sale to go through.

The property, used for chemical manufacturing, was owned from 1953 by National Polychemicals, Inc., until it was purchased by Olin Chemical Corporation in 1980. The facility manufactured chemical blowing agents, stabilizers, antioxidants and other specialty chemicals for the rubber and plastics industry. The facility closed in 1986, but the property is still owned by Olin Chemical Corporation.

Historical wastewater disposal practices were a major source of the contamination associated with the Olin Chemical facility. Prior to 1970, all liquid wastes were discharged directly into several unlined pits and ponds in the central portion of the property, as well as into a man-made excavation called Lake Poly Liquid Waste Disposal Area (Lake Poly). In 1970, Stepan Chemical installed an acid treatment and neutralization system and new lined lagoons to replace the unlined pits and ponds. Treated wastes were released into the lagoons. The lagoons were periodically dredged and the sludge was deposited in a landfill in the southwest corner of the property.

On-site waste disposal practices have resulted in groundwater contamination both on and off the Olin Chemical property, and in late 2002 resulted in the closure of the Town of Wilmington's municipal drinking water supply wells located in Maple Meadow Brook.

New England Transrail is waiting on the final terms being discussed between EPA and Olin. According to the most recent memorandum from Hull, “It appears that EPA now believes that given the well documented extent of residual contamination and the expansive EPA risk assessment that the property is safe for commercial use. Within 30 days of receipt of notice that resolution has been achieved, NET is expected to re-file with the Federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) to obtain authorization for the proposed project. If NET re-files with STB it is expected that an environmental assessment of the project would be required.”

Hull added that there are a number of concerns around the transloading of an “unspecified range of materials on a Superfund site.” Many of those concerns include traffic, noise and the ability of tractor trailer trucks negotiating and navigating the hairpin turn from Eames St. to Woburn St. to access Presidential Way and Interstate 93.

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