You can’t “Meet the Monster” but you can learn more about it

by beth on October 24, 2019

Above: A spooky video demonstrated that hikers would actually “meet” an old dump that “continues to haunt” Town owned conservation land. That won’t take place, but the “monster” is still there. (video posted by Carl Guyer)

Earlier this week, I posted an invitation by resident Carl Guyer to “Meet the Monster of Breakneck Hill”. Although I updated it to announce it is cancelled, I’m running this post today to increase awareness of the cancellation. (I don’t want readers showing up to a non-existent event.)

Between the initial post and this one, Guyer is still achieving a key part of his goal – to raise awareness of an old dump on Breakneck Hill Conservation Land. 

As I updated yesterday morning, Guyer explained the event cancellation:

A town regulation restricts public use of the town’s land to only the designated trails.

Since none of the trails allows access to the site, leaving a trail to visit the dump site is not allowed.

Please accept my apology, I was mistaken in thinking the all the property was open to public access.

As for what Guyer was hoping to achieve, he originally explained that he was trying to get the Town to clean up the mess it owns. That mess, as he described in the invitation is a dump:

Old tires, rusting machine parts, rotting 55 gallon drums, asphalt singles, sinks and tanks, street sweepers, heavy equipment, broken ceramics, plastic objects; a general mess. All is out of sight hidden by fallen trees and overgrown vegetation just like in the movies. Owned by the Town of Southborough and under the control of our Conservation Commission. . . 

As a preview, here is a video with pictures taken during the winter and fall of this year: https://youtu.be/QG61cjs-jgU

Guyer is a member of the Conservation Commission, but was acting alone. I asked him to share what he would have shared with residents if they attended on Saturday. (I could find some references to the issue in Conservation minutes, but wasn’t sure of the latest status.) He responded:

My plan for the visits was to inform anyone who showed about the small amount of history I know.

All I really know is that dump was created by the prior owner and the town, which now owns the property, has been struggling how to deal with this for years.

The town had water on the site tested for hazardous chemicals in 2005 and again recently (2019) and the good news so far is it looks like the dump has not been a source of contamination to the reservior.

It is time to stop hemming and hawing about what to do, hire a professional service to clean up the mess so we no longer have future boards and commissions struggling with this burden.

As a current member of the Conservation Commission I am disappointed this issue was not resolved in the past, and am determined not to pass it on.

The potential liability of this mess represents to the town needs to be eliminated.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 matthew October 24, 2019 at 4:58 PM

I’ll help. But tell me, is this an “ask for permission” or a “say sorry later” situation for accessing the property and removing debris?

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2 Matt October 24, 2019 at 8:41 PM

Appreciate Mr Guyer raising awareness about this. As parent of younger kids it’s nice to see someone advocating dealing with issues before they become another generations problem.

Curious what, if any, prior discussion there has been around a cleanup effort. Is this something there has been discussion about in the past? Has an estimate or assessment been done? TIA.

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3 Honestly Able October 24, 2019 at 9:06 PM

The town owes a huge debt of gratitude to Mr. Guyer for directing the sunshine to this environmental mess. Mr. Guyer, this appears to be a hazardous waste dump and is likely required to be listed on the state’s website for sites to be remediated. Rotting 55 gallon drums? The contents could leach into the groundwater. Has the the Department of Environmental Affairs been notified? Is this a registered Superfund site? See the link at the bottom

https://www.bu.edu/sph/about/departments/environmental-health/research/research-groups-and-centers/superfund-research-program-at-boston-university/about-busrp/massachusetts-sites/chapter-21e-sites-in-massachusetts/

https://www.mass.gov/guides/filing-environmental-complaints
https://www.mass.gov/environmental-emergency-response-program

Environmental Strike Force
Phone — Call Environmental Strike Force at 617-556-1000 OR 1-888-846-5283
Online – Email Environmental Strike Force at esf.hotline@mass.gov
The link below is to an older report on waste dumps by town with Southborough listed as having two:
https://www.bu.edu/sph/files/2015/03/TAC-toxics-in-massachusetts.pdf
According to the following guide, if the responsible party does not clean up a site, the EPA may clean up the site and sue for recovery of costs.
https://semspub.epa.gov/work/HQ/175197.pdf

Thank you Mr. Guyer for your conscientious efforts on behalf of the Town.
PS — good video

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4 Matthew October 25, 2019 at 9:33 AM

No idea of past discussion. What do we need to talk about? Let’s get lawyers involved to talk liability, i’m sure town council could use more money…
I see tires in the video. Let’s get people to walk those out to the trail edge and then people walking along the trail take them to be recycled. My mechanic will charge $2.50 each to dispose of properly.

Wear gloves, take what you feel comfortable with and already have the means for proper disposal. So no dumping this stuff just somewhere else…

Arrest me for trespassing on town land and cleaning up town trash. That will make the news…or at least the blog.

Sunday noon good for people? I want to be done with the first round of cleaning before the game.

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5 beth October 25, 2019 at 11:11 AM

I’m all for volunteers pitching in to help the community. But before jumping straight to asking people to commit civil disobedience, how about discussing the situation with officials and asking for permission?

You may discover in that conversation reasons why your approach could be an issue. For instance:

– There is the possibility of residents getting injured while wading around in waste.
– Or volunteers could accidentally do more harm than good, like causing “rotting 55 gallon drums” or other containers to leak/spill. (I’m not saying that anything there does contain chemicals – I don’t know.)

Talking the details through before jumping in may be a good idea. This could be an effort that requires bringing in experts for at least part of the cleanup even if smaller items are left to volunteers. It would be better to learn that in advance than ask for forgiveness if you accidentally caused a bigger problem.

You could ask Conservation or Selectmen to add the issue to their next meeting agenda with hopes of getting permission to organize a volunteer effort. (I’m not sure who’s permission is required, but you could reach out to the Town Administration to find out. Or, perhaps Carl knows.)

Conservation’s schedule shows them planning to meet again on 11/14 and BOS is scheduled to meet on 11/5 and 11/19 (though meeting schedules can change).

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6 sew Sioux mi October 27, 2019 at 4:46 PM

Assuming you’re not in favor of making those with a legal background wealthier, that’s counsel – not council.

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7 Dean Dairy October 25, 2019 at 12:44 PM

When and by what process did the town acquire the land?

Was any due diligence performed before the acquisition with respect to certifying the land was clear of contaminants?

What price was paid for the land? Were there any holdbacks because of the potential contamination?

Like the misguided high school cost-sharing lawsuit, this town seems to receive really bad legal advice.

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8 beth October 25, 2019 at 1:43 PM

You’d have to tap into someone’s memory there. The only info I could find on that was the Assessor’s online record indicating that Southborough purchased 87.66 acres of Conservation Land at Breakneck Hill for $0 in 1980.

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9 Honestly Able October 25, 2019 at 3:24 PM

Dean Dairy, agreed — really bad legal advice or none at all, ignoring normal due diligence.

Also, someone in charge of that acquisition (BOS?) did not do the typical, normal due diligence before putting the town in the chain of liability. This situation means bad to non existent leadership to ignore what is basic homework before acquiring any site and potentially saddling the taxpayers with liability. (Of note, the town just acquired more surplus land at the last town meeting and am not sure if any basic homework was done there as well. Not sure it even crosses the mind of those responsible.) It is misguided and irresponsible leadership to kick the contamination can down the road, then and now.

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10 Southern Breeze October 28, 2019 at 3:00 PM

I was told years ago that the property was the outcome of back taxes owed to the town. I apologize if this is incorrect.

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11 Ben October 28, 2019 at 7:39 PM

I think the video quite comical , calling it a “Monster”.
In and around New England area of the time and much of the country regarding farms, was commonplace to dispose of metal and so on for use at later date then again, maybe a dump.. There was no outlet for this material, ie “junkyards” would of charged to haul it away. Being on a farm you have a fixed income and every penny counts.
Some of those items look as if they were recently deposited there, plastic pails would be part of the earth rather than on top of it. maybe the town is responsible rather the former owner to certain degree.?

I’m rather interested to find out why the poster was so interested in this lot as there’s another situation on the old Killam farm that “My Southborough” had an article about old rusting machinery/barrels etc.
Haven’t heard of any movement or videos of the eyesore on that side of town yet?
That parcel I believe is on open space also.

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