October 4, 2022

State DEP Investigating Rehoboth Sludge

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The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is investigating the contents of the waste dumped on a site on Almeida Road. The findings are expected to be released by mid-September, according to Robert Materne, the Chairman of the Conservation Commission.

At a Tuesday joint meeting between the Board of Selectmen and the Conservation Commission, representatives from the Board of Health, the Water Commission, the Agricultural Commission, and the Planning Board discussed the potential impacts on local wells.

Approximately 300 truckloads of sewage sludge were dumped by a company called EarthSource last March. The DEP has agreed to take oversight of the testing and removal from the Conservation Commission.

Materne told the other boards that the sludge, which had been stored at the Raynham dog track, is “the largest violation in our history.”

“It’s going to be very costly,” Materne noted. “I know it’s going to cost a huge amount of money to remove it. We don’t have the resources to go after people that DEP has.”

 “We’re not telling any of these boards or commissions what to do,” said Selectmen Chair Skip Vadnais, noting the board would be merely serving as an “umbrella over all those that have standing in this issue.”

The DEP had tested the sludge because of the huge size of the alteration of wetlands, which ended up being seven acres. Two samples were taken.

“There are other chemicals outside of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in that sludge and in that area,” said Water Commissioner Joseph Nunes.

Exposure to high levels of PFAS in contaminated drinking water may result in the following health effects: increased cholesterol levels, changes in liver enzymes, hormone disruption and increased risk for thyroid disease, and increased risk of kidney or testicular cancers.

 “Even if (DEP) say they’re done with their investigation in September, we don’t even know what their timeline is for removing it,” Materne added.

Selectman Michael Deignan wanted the town to take more aggressive action.

“We need to take it a step further,” Deignan said. “If we need town counsel to send a letter to DEP expressing our concern over this and our demand that they remove this stuff immediately, then so be it.”

“Our demand has to be based on a foundation of violations of our local ordinances,” Vadnais noted.

State Rep. Steve Howitt, R-Seekonk, said the DEP would like to test residents’ wells. The phone number for the DEP Director is 508-946-2727.

“If it wasn’t for Rehoboth, the town of Seekonk and its residents wouldn’t be aware of this situation,” said Seekonk Selectman David Andrade, who owns property across the street from Almeida Road.

 Andrade said the Seekonk Board of Selectmen has not yet had the chance to discuss the issue but will funnel all communications through the Town Administrator.

“Wetlands were filled in illegally,” Andrade said. “That material should immediately  be stored offsite, should continue to be sampled, and continue to have monitoring done on the site to see if there are any further implications but at least we’re mitigating the situation and not sitting on a potential time bomb.”

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