Fire chief says proposed chemical transfer station poses ‘little risk’

by susan on December 2, 2010

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The idea of a chemical transfer plant in Westborough not far from the Southborough border has some residents nervous. But in a letter to Selectmen this week, Fire Chief John Mauro, Jr. sought to allay some of the fears.

“I am confident that the proposed facility poses little risk to the Town of Southborough,” he wrote.

In his letter Mauro said he has met multiple times with Westborough officials as well as representatives from CSX and its subsidiary Transflow which would operate the facility located off Flanders Road.

Mauro said 30% of the material moving through the transfer station would be hazardous as classified by the federal government, but none would be in the class of extremely hazardous materials that includes things like poison gas, explosives, flammable solids, or radioactive materials.

The proposed transfer station would lie near the Cedar Swamp at the head of the Sudbury River. “Transflow has committed to protect the environmentally-sensitive areas surrounding the site,” Mauro wrote in his letter.

Should a large-scale spill occur, Mauro said the worst-case would require evacuations within a half-mile radius. A fire involving a tank truck or rail car might require evacuations within a 1-mile radius. No homes in Southborough lie within a 1-mile radius of the site.

Another major concern of area residents is traffic. According to Mauro’s letter, up to 30 trucks per day would use the facility, which would operate between the hours of 6:00 am and 6:00 pm. Trucks leaving the site would be required to take a left on Flanders Road. They would not be permitted to drive eastbound into Southborough.

Despite the assurances in Mauro’s letter, Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf said this week she still has concerns.

Because of our mutual aid agreement with Westborough, Southborough could be called upon to respond to a spill, fire, or other incident at the site. “Westborough would have to rely on Southborough and other neighboring communities if something were to happen,” Phaneuf said. “We need to understand what their expectations of this town are.”

Southborough officials asked CSX to meet to discuss the project, but they declined. The Board of Selectmen plans to hold a public hearing on the CSX project in January anyway.

You can read the complete letter from the fire chief here.

Related stories:
CSX official decline to meet with Southborough about chemical transfer station
CSX proposes chemical transfer station near Southborough border – what does it mean for us?

(Image posted to Flickr by JFeister)

1 Concerned December 2, 2010 at 12:08 PM

They seem to have thought about trucks leaving the site. What about trucks heading toward the site? What will keep those 30 trucks off of Southville Road?

2 Al Hamilton December 2, 2010 at 7:03 PM

I encourage anyone with questions to first read the Fire Chief’s letter. Westborough is proposing that a condition of the permit is that all traffic will be routed to Rt 9. I suspect that the vast majority will then make its way to 495 or the Pike.

I do not always agree with the Chief (ask him) but I think he has given a reasoned, professional assessment of the risks and is satisfied that they are manageable.

3 John Kendall December 2, 2010 at 2:16 PM

I would take the Fire Chief’s word on this issue. I know for a fact that he would never support any plans that would endanger Southborough.

4 Jim December 2, 2010 at 5:46 PM

I agree completely with John Kendall. Chief Mauro has been very proactive on this issue.

5 Mark Ford December 2, 2010 at 8:46 PM

Thanks Chief. We appreciate the due diligence.

6 Resident December 3, 2010 at 6:34 PM

How will this effect the value of property in the Southville Rd. area and the streets bordering on the Westborough town line?
Chief Mauro is quoted as saying, “30% of the material moving through the transfer station would be hazardous as classified by the federal government, but none would be in the class of extremely hazardous materials that includes things like poison gas, explosives, flammable solids, or radioactive materials.”
Exactly what type of Hazardous materials are you talking about? They are not listed in this article.
Also, how many more trains will be coming through? Will they be backing up on the tracks?
Is the thirty trucks per day in addition to what already travels on these roads?
Why won’t CSX meet with town officials?
If there is a large chemical spill, who is to say the fumes won’t travel more than a mile if the winds are directing it. Have there been studies done on this?
There are a lot of questions that need answers.

7 John Kendall December 4, 2010 at 7:59 AM

With all of the questions and your apparent doubt, you need to keep track of and attend meetings regarding Transflo that are being held in Westborough. After all, much to the chagrin of many, that’s where it’s going, and CSX declines to meet with our selectmen.

8 southsider December 24, 2010 at 12:04 PM

I, too, find it disturbing that CSX officials won’t meet with Southboro officials. Do we have any leverage on this? With our mutual aid agreement with Westboro, I’d encourage our town fathers to enlist the aid of their Westboro counterparts to get CSX to a table with us. At the least, CSX needs to agree to provide our emergency responders with adequate training in the event they need to respond to a problem at the CSX facility.
As for the nature of the hazardous materials, I seem to recall something I read in a very early article on this topic that CSX was glad to move to Westboro because there were certain materials that they could transfer in Westboro that they were not allowed to transfer at the current site in Allston. That seems to indicate to me that the risks out here are going to be higher.

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