Abandoned Battye property could someday house new DPW

By Steve Whipple
MethuenLife Writer

 

Here’s the abandoned cement block garage at the contaminated Battye property at 51 Old Ferry Road. Photo is from the 2021 Phase I Environmental Assessment report completed for the city. Courtesy photo

Thanks to a recently acquired federal grant secured by Methuen’s environmental planner/energy manager Joe Cosgrove, Methuen now has a half-million dollars for cleaning up contaminated sites in the city.

Methuen was one of only 14 cities to receive the $500,000 Brownfields Community-Wide Assessment Grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help reuse blighted properties — often industrial/commercial sites — where hazard material contamination is an obstacle to private development and neighborhood investment.

Grant funds are used for soil testing, groundwater monitoring and planning for property reuse and cleanup/remediation.

According to Cosgrove, Methuen’s priorities include:

  *Old Ferry Road industrial area including the former Battye property at 51 Old Ferry Road, which is currently in tax foreclosure and has a history of use as illegal dumping of construction and demolition debris

*Properties in the Central Business District including former industrial parcels at Osgood Street/River Road.
  *Arlington neighborhood properties including former mill properties and auto-related used parcels.
“The (Battye) property has a lengthy history going back several decades,” explained Cosgrove. “TJ Battye Trucking formerly operated at the site, which has been abandoned by the owner who passed away in 2015. The city initiated tax-foreclosure proceedings in 2010.”

Cosgrove provided to MethuenLife an excerpt from the Phase I assessment completed by the city in 2021: “The site is comprised of eight parcels totaling 69.97 acres and improved with one approximate

2,800-square foot dilapidated building, which formerly served as office and a repair garage. The site building consists of an office on the south end, three garage bays in the middle and one repair bay on the northern end of the building. Three floor drains and an auto repair pit were identified during the site reconnaissance within the site building.

“The site building is noted to have been constructed without building permits or plumbing permits, and no septic system or oil/water separator has been documented. These floor drains likely discharge to a dry well onsite given the lack of public sewer.

“The site has operated as an unpermitted construction and demolition (C&D) waste receiving and salvage yard from the early 1980s until 2016. The ground surface across the majority of the western portion of the property consists of piles and filled areas consisting of imported C&D debris including gravel, building debris (mainly brick and masonry), building materials (asphalt shingles and other building materials), tree stumps, and numerous granite blocks.

“This widespread dumping has led to multiple investigations from the City of Methuen and the MassDEP including repeated Cease-and Desist Orders and eventual legal action. The dumping that has occurred at the site has been estimated to be at minimum 577,000 cubic yards of debris. Multiple liens have been placed on the property as result of financial and environmental negligence totaling approximately $6.4 million.”
Economic and Community Development Director Jack Wilson said the city is particularly interested in that property.
“The Battye property is being looked at as a possible new DPW site,” said Wilson, noting that the current DPW has outgrown the current headquarters on Mystic Street.
But there remains plenty of cleanup in the forecast before a possible new DPW yard is considered seriously in that area.
The assessment goes on to say, “An additional area of dumping was observed east of Hawkes Brook. This debris appears to be mostly waste rubber sheeting, shoe rubber and strips of rubber outsoles. To the south of the shoe waste dumping, three dilapidated trailers are abandoned in the woods. Miscellaneous debris including rubber sheeting, pipes, asphalt materials, and four empty 55-gallon drums was noted around the trailers. To the immediate west of the trailers on the east bank of the Hawkes River orange-colored standing water was observed … Based on the age of the building and observed materials throughout the building, there is potential asbestos containing materials, lead paint and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) containing building materials to be present among the other debris and waste.”

Cosgrove said, “There have been a number of local and state enforcement actions dating back to the early 1980s. At least seven companies have settled with MassDEP for illegal dumping at the site. The owner, T.J. Battye Trucking was assessed a civil penalty of $3.5 million for wetlands, air quality, and solid waste violations and lien was placed on the site. MassDEP has estimated cleanup of the property at $6 million.”

Cosgrove added, “First step in developing a plan for site cleanup is to conduct soil testing and groundwater monitoring. This environmental assessment work will take place this fall by the city using $125,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and $100,000 through the EPA-funded Merrimack Valley Planning Commission Regional Brownfields Assessment Program.”