AN OPEN LETTER TO COMMISSIONER McCARTHY REGARDING THE LANDFILL NOW KNOWN AS BUSHNELL PARK
Dear Commissioner McCarthy:
At the public meeting held on August 17, 2006 at which you released your Plan for the clean-up of the Newhall neighborhood, you may recall that one of our neighbors stood up and asked you what you would do if it were your yard that lay on top of a former industrial dumpsite.
You never responded. But the question is more relevant to your situation than you might think.
Don’t worry. We’re not talking about the yard of your home in Canton, Massachusetts. We’re talking about the “yard” in front of your offices at the Department of Environmental Protection.
We’re talking about Bushnell Park.
That’s right, much like our much humbler parks here in Hamden and in countless other towns throughout the state, Bushnell Park was once an industrial waste dump, a site of such extensive contamination that it was described by the Reverend Horace Bushnell in the late 1800s as “hell without the fire."
Bushnell Park in 1850: “Hell without the fire.”
According to the website of the Bushnell Park Foundation, today’s Bushnell Park was once the wetlands of the “Little” or “Mill” River (later known as the “Park River”), but by the mid-19th Century, the area had become a polluted stretch of chemical-intensive industries (including two tanneries) and garbage dumps. During the mid-19th Century factories like the Pratt and Whitney Machine Parts Co. and, later, Col. Albert Pope's bicycle and automobile factory emptied their wastes into the river, which reportedly ran murky with industrial wastes. In the 19th Century, what would later become Bushnell Park was a contaminated wasteland…and Bushnell just covered it over to create the park that now bears his name.
And unlike Newhall, the contamination in Bushnell Park does not seem to have been contained very well. Well into the 1930s and 1940s, the befouled Park River regularly flooded the entirety of Bushnell Park and the surrounding streets, leaving a layer of contaminated silt on the surface of the greens. These are the very areas that the staff from your Department and the surrounding government offices now sit on the grass to eat their lunches each day during the warm weather.
So it seems that we are all in the same predicament. Perhaps now you can relate to our situation a little better than you initially thought.
Or to put all of this in the language familiar to your Department, our “Phase I” investigation suggests that your yard is on landfill waste to a depth of at least four feet, and you may be placing a significant number of people at risk from contamination from the fill materials.
What is to be done?
This brings us back to the question you were asked by our neighbor and we are very curious as to what you will do about the Bushnell landfill. Will you sound the alarm and begin to channel millions of dollars in State bond funds under emergency contracts (without competitive bids) to favored contractors like Loureiro Engineering Associates, as you and your staff have done at Newhall? Can we expect you to sign a Consent Order with United Technologies (Pratt and Whitney) and the Town of Hartford to pay for the removal of the top four feet of soil, including the removal of all of the historic trees and structures of the Park, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, to clean Bushnell Park up to your Department’s arbitrarily strict remediation standards? Will you draw out the process for years and then finally put forward a plan that evicts those working around the Park (including the Governor) from their offices for the duration of the remediation, while providing them with no compensation whatsoever for the utter disruption of their lives? Or can we expect to wait, as those of us in Newhall have, for 28 years following your Department's initial site investigation before any decision is taken about what is to be done?
Please let us know at your earliest convenience.
The Residents of Newhall