ACAC member Michele Brooks interviews State Representative Jack Patrick Lewis
Last month one of our committee members, Michele Brooks, spoke with Ashland State Representative Jack Patrick Lewis about her work in environmental advocacy as a community organizer with the Sierra Club, and what led her to this career path. She named the Nyanza Superfund Site, and her involvement with ACAC as a motivating factor in her passion to pursue such work.
Michele is an Ashland native and has her Bachelors degree in Environmental Science and Regional Planning. She joined ACAC in the summer of 2016 after graduating college, when she became aware of development plans for the Rail Transit District (RTD), and concerned that the active blasting being done could disrupt the Nyanza cap site.
Michele is committed to working with local and federal officials and the Ashland community to see through a full remediation process of remaining contamination, and protection of the health and safety of Ashland residents. Watch her full interview on Beacon Hill Briefings here.
ACAC Member Dan Borelli on "Chasing Color"
On Thursday February 21 at 5pm at the UMass Dartmouth campus and their CVPA gallery, Dan Borelli will be showcasing his exhibition at UMass Dartmouth- Chasing Color.
For more information on his exhibit check out CVPA News.
This exhibition pulls together his 9-year artistic inquiry into Ashland and Nyanza. Dan's study into the history and impact Nyanza had on Ashland can be viewed at the Ashland Public Library. For more information on Dan and his work with Nyanza check out his Ashland-Nyanza Project.
Michael Herbert announces that Ashland has finalized the RTD land deal
In his Facebook post, Town Manager Michael Herbert announced the finalized deal between the land owner of the RTD and the Town of Ashland. Due to Michael Herbert's continued vigilance and work with ACAC, Ashland will now be able to gear the building on the site to accommodate the impact on Nyanza. Below you will find his full statement and a link to the news article.
Three years ago, as 28 acres were denuded to clear the way for almost 400 apartments on Megunko Hill, I came to the stark realization that the overall plan and zoning for the 180-acre Rail Transit District site was outdated and not reflective of the direction that Ashland wanted to go in. In addition to the 400 apartments being built, the zoning allowed almost 500 additional units of housing to be built in a configuration that was not congruent with our values of being a smart, safe and sustainable community. The existing plan at the time included townhomes spread across the entire property and at one point even a golf-course on the Nyanza cap. It was at that point that I resolved to at least give us a chance to develop a new vision for the property, one that helped us maintain a significant amount of open space, provided an economic driver for the community in the YMCA, and gave us opportunities to protect ourselves from non-friendly "40b" developments and provide affordable housing options that gave our seniors an opportunity to stay in the community that they helped build. The plan required us to purchase or at least control a very large portion of the property. This dream seemed pretty far-fetched at the time, but with the support of the Board of Selectmen and other key stakeholders, and a lot of hard work, it all culminated in a new vision for the RTD that was presented at the November 28th Town Meeting and passed overwhelmingly. I am happy to say that we now own 90 acres of the RTD, and with the purchase placed a development restriction on another 24 acres, preserving it as open space.
In addition to the YMCA, we have already started the process of incorporating this land as part of the Upper Charles Trail Network. The UCT Committee with the assistance of Asst Town Manager Jenn Ball recently submitted an application for grant funding to engineer the section of the UCT on the Rail Transit District property. Once completed this will help pave the way for construction. This trail section will bisect the property, and run through the recently restored Eastern Wetlands, which is an absolutely beautiful section of town, and lead to downtown providing another valuable link between the luxury apartments on the hill and downtown.
Thank you Ashland!
Ashland finalizes $4.8M land deal
Rail Transit District
This large parcel of land that contains the Nyanza cap has been partially developed. According to Ashland Town Manager Michael Herbert, it is important to get the land developed correctly and in a way that is the best interest for the town Ashland. Read his blog post about what the town is looking to do in order to obtain the land and use it in the best way for Ashland. The town has come up with a very creative solution.
A New Vision for the Town of Ashland
Solar Panels on Nyanza
On September 13, 2018 the Planning Board met to further discuss the application by Ashland Solar, LLC to construct solar panels on the Nyanza cap site. After much discussion, the Planning Board agreed to approve a Site Plan review. You can learn more about this project on the coUrbanze link.
MBTA Roadway Solar Array
The investigatory, background and field work for the Nyanza Feasibility Study has been completed by the contractor, Nobis Engineering. They are currently working on tasks such as data evaluation/interpretation, evaluating potential remedial alternatives for groundwater, determining potential groundwater clean-up levels, and other follow-up activities. At this time, we do not have any final reports yet for the feasibility study. However, EPA has a public release and formal comment period scheduled to start for the feasibility report and proposed plan (which will describe the recommended remedy for Nyanza Operable Unit 02 groundwater) in June 2019. We will have a data summary report from sampling activities conducted during the feasibility study (which will be similar to the 2015 groundwater report) that will be finalized prior to this time; this data report will be posted to the public website for download. We will also post it here. In the link below you will find all documents related to the EPA cleanup of Nyanza.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Nyanza information
Recently Ashland Citizens Action Committee (ACAC) met with a company called Citizens Energy for the second time regarding placing solar panels on the Nyanza site. About a year ago, they reached out to our group to hear our thoughts on placing solar panels on the aging cap. We voiced our concerns about the integrity of the cap, how Ashland will benefit from the solar panels, and how we can insure safety for the town of Ashland.
According to their website: Founded in 2010, Citizens Solar has become one of the largest solar developers in the state of Massachusetts. As of 2013, Citizens Solar completed the construction of a $50 million portfolio of nine distributed solar projects totaling over 18 megawatts.Citizens Solar works with a diverse array of government and private sector entities to develop solar sites, allowing our partners to save on electricity costs while contributing clean and green energy to the grid.
While these are all laudable qualities, ACAC still has questions:
1. Who is responsible if there is a problem with the cap?
2. What is the contingency plan if the cap fails?
3. Who is benefitting from this plan?
4. How much will Ashland get back in affordable energy?
As part of Ashland's commitment to maintain the cleanup efforts of the Super Fund site and to oversee any future development on or near the land associated with Nyanza, the Conservation Commission and the Planning Board are conducting a peer site review of the project. This review is done by people with a similar level of competence to the original review writer. It's a great way to self regulate work by partnering with qualified members of a certain group, and the process helps groups maintain standards of quality, improved performance and credibility.
Are you interested in hearing more about this? Please reach out to us, the town, or attend any of the publicly open meetings at Town Hall. Here are the next few meetings that will address this topic:
*June 25: Conservation Commission 7-9pm Town Hall
*June 26: Nyanza Advisory Committee 7 pm Town Hall
ACAC will have representatives at each of these meetings, but welcomes any resident of Ashland that would like to learn more about this venture.
Dear Ashland Community,
The Ashland Memorial Healing Garden has been created thanks to the dedication and hard work of Dan Borelli, an artist and Ashland High School graduate. The garden was created in memory of all lives lost to cancer due to pollution caused by Nyanza, a toxic superfund site in our town. Among those doomed were classmates of Dan. The garden’s concept arose from Dan’s Harvard University Master’s Degree in Art, Design & the Public Domain Thesis Project, from 2010-2012.
Construction of the Healing Garden is being realized through volunteer work, especially the tremendous commitment of workers from the New England Laborers Training Academy under the direction of Jamie Merloni and Art Place of America and the National Endowment of the Arts: Our Town Program concluding in 2016, funded the initial phase of the project. Nyanza has created a negative impact on our community and the garden will offer a place of reflection, respect, peace, and healing to those affected by the losses of loved ones.
The Garden is located on the MBTA access road off of RT.135 behind the Ashland Middle School. We are in the final phase of completion, and your donations will be used to fund all of the plantings for the garden this spring. We thank you in advance for your support! Your donation is key to making the final touches possible.
You may donate online, or make checks payable to “The Arts Company”.
Your donation is tax deductible 501(c) 3 .
We eagerly await your anticipated response.
“Gold” donations-$250 or more will have an engraved paver stone with your name or Company’s name located within a flower bed at the garden.
Please make checks payable/mailed to :
The Arts Company, Inc.
43 Linnaean St., Suite 25.
Cambridge, MA 02138
All online donations can be made on the following link:
With warmest regards,
The Ashland Memorial Healing Garden Members
Nyanza still making the news but this time in a positive way
On February 15, 2018 an article was written about Dan Borelli and his use of art and color to bring attention to the Nyanza dye factory and the impact it had on the town of Ashland. Click on the link below to check out the article that was posted on Atlas Obscura.
Update on the Nyanza Advisory Committee
The Nyanza Advisory Committee has been working hard to keep Nyanza at the forefront of conversations about future building downtown. They have created a map of a groundwater border that encompasses streets and houses within this plume. They are in the process of creating a bylaw in order to help control the impact the contaminated groundwater has on the public. If you are interested in the wording of the bylaw, the proposed map of groundwater border, and the EPA involvement you can find the minutes of the meeting here:
January 29, 2018
February 15, 2018
UMASS Dartmouth Partnership
Dan Borelli, member of ACAC and creator of the Ashland Healing Garden gave a talk hosted by Whitewall and Lexus on 'Art Transforming Communities' at the Faena Screening Room in Miami in early December.
He has also partnered with UMASS Dartmouth to create a curriculum for Ashland Public Schools regarding the history of Nyanza, the impact on the town of Ashland, and the Healing Garden. He will be working with Cathy Smilan, Ed.D. Professor and MAE Graduate Program Director. He will partner with her Fall 2018 course Community Partnership to create lesson plans.
Senator Karen Spilka
On October 18, 2017 Senator Karen Spilka joined our ACAC Meeting to hear about our efforts in cleaning up the Nyanza site. She attended the Walking Tour, led by Dan Borelli, and was impressed with our progress and future plans for making sure the site was fully remediated. We are pleased to announce that Senator Spilka has agreed to match any donations up to $1000 in order to help with the restoration and maintenance of The Healing Garden. Information on how you can donate to this cause will be coming shortly.
Fox 25 News did a piece last night on the vandalism that occurred at our Ashland Memorial Healing Garden. Please take a minute to check out this video that aired on Fox News. And SHARE!! Please! We want more and more people to know about this. Not only because it's a beautiful and calming space to reflect, but because it was damaged and we're trying to fix it. Join us in our fight to keep this town safe, clean and caring.
On October 13, 1988 Senator Kennedy visited the Nyanza SuperFund site along with the Director of the EPA(?) in order to gain information about the planned cleanup. Senator Kennedy was instrumental in helping to get funds released to clean up this site. He states that "this is not the job of the community, this is a state and federal job". It was important for Ashland residents to know that the Senator was behind us and that he deemed this site to be of the utmost importance.
25 years later, Nyanza is still not fully cleaned up. Only Phase 1 was completed. We know there is more work to be done and we hope we can have another state representative be a key factor in helping the EPA finish the job that they started. In their own words, "No one wants this cleaned up more than the EPA."
The above video was edited for time. To watch the video in its entirety please click the link below.
A few weeks ago there was a forum on the Howe Street Solar Project and a lot of updates were given. We heard a great briefing from friend Rob Moolenbeek and he allowed us to share. Let us know what you think!
"The two things noteworthy were that the big (one year) delay resulted from the discovery of the methane buildup under the cap and the EPA forced the town to come up with a plan to resolve that. That has now been resolved (19 deep venting wells).
Also the connection plan to Eversource has gone through multiple proposals and has yet to be approved. The connection will now be made off-site on a small piece of private land. (an issue of zoning and the proper approval process was brought up). There is still continued opposition from them and the abutters to the Solar Farm at Howe St.
This connection plan, which will require 2-4 telephone poles was one of the two contentious issues with the many abutters that showed up. They were not happy and complained that this was not mentioned earlier.
The second major issue was the berm. The berm plan (6 ft with 10 ft mixed vegetation), which sounded good was approved by the planning board but Ameresco will not implement it until the connection plan has been approved by Eversource. This created more friction with the abutters, who felt they have waited long enough and want to have it implemented now
Overall now the plan is to have the Solar Farm on line in the fall as long as Eversource approves the connection plan. That latest plan was submitted July 12."
Check out the documents below to learn more about the history of Nyanza and why ACAC got invloved.