In FY13, MassDEP completed an Urban Compliance Initiative in the Ward 1 area of Springfield, Massachusetts.  The purpose of the initiative was to focus the resources of MassDEP and its partners to address quality-of-life issues related to environmental conditions. The Ward 1, an environmental justice area, has one of the lowest per capita income rates in the Commonwealth as well as very high childhood asthma rates. The residential areas are surrounded by highways, rail lines and MassDEP regulated entities such as combined sewer overflows, automobile junk yards, automobile body repair shops, high hazard industries and 21E sites.  In addition, it has a number of abandoned buildings and lots that potentially pose a multitude of environmental and health/safety risks to nearby residents.

The Urban Compliance Initiative featured extensive community involvement, and was launched after meetings with Mayor Sarno, municipal department heads, state legislators and civic, neighborhood and business leaders in Ward 1. These municipal and neighborhood contacts became active partners in the Initiative by providing input, direction, communication with the community and feedback as the Initiative was implemented.  Input from the community was vital to the effectiveness of this initiative and resulted in modifications to the action plan as needed.

The Initiative was developed and implemented in two Phases.   In Phase 1, MassDEP identified regulated facilities that had not been inspected within the last 18 months, and performed inspections to assess and ensure compliance with applicable regulations.  Phase 2 was a discovery effort, in which MassDEP identified facilities and activities outside regulated universe that were not in conformance with regulations.  Many of these inspections performed in conjunction with City inspectors. MassDEP’s commitment to the community was to ensure outreach and technical assistance when practical providing no imminent hazard to public health and the environment existed.  MassDEP provided technical assistance to small businesses and property owners as necessary to come into compliance and mitigate sources of potential pollution.  Regional staff were able to provide Spanish translation of guidance documents and to assist in bilingual communications as necessary to facilitate compliance.

MassDEP’s efforts during the initiative included:

  • multiple unannounced inspections within the neighborhood for vehicle idling;
  • review of all demolition and asbestos notifications filed within the neighborhood and multiple unannounced inspections of those properties to ensure proper asbestos abatement was being implemented;
  • a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) to conduct asbestos survey and abatement on a City owned property slated for demolition;
  • 33 announced inspections of regulated or permitted facilities impacting residential and commercial neighborhoods, including auto repair shops, hospitals, transportation facilities and junkyards;
  • 72 inspections of potential Brownfields properties;
  • 14 inspections of unregulated or unregistered facilities identified by the community for inspection;
  • collection and analysis of five (5) rounds of river water bacteria sampling at seven (7) identified outfalls along the Connecticut River;
  • installation of cameras to monitor illegal dumping at three sites;
  • issuing Requests for Information and conducting file reviews and inspections at two high hazard facilities located proximal to the neighborhoods; and
  • installation of air quality monitoring equipment on the Gerena School, participation in an EPA CARE Grant project at that school and attending the regular meetings of the Counter Criminal Continuum (C3) Policing effort in the Ward 1 community.  

The initiative yielded significant results, including:

  • community partners not only supporting the goals of the initiative but also became participants in identifying areas of concern and communicating compliance and outreach goals;
  • correction of multiple non-compliance issues related to hazardous waste and waste oil registration, management and documentation at regulated facilities;
  • documentation of illegal dumping and follow-up with local code enforcement officers,
  • identification of three locations along the Connecticut River exhibiting high bacteria counts.  MassDEP is requiring further investigation;.
  • flagging of 18 brownfields sites for follow-up inspection and assessment. MassDEP is working closely with city officials to identify funding sources for assessment and cleanup of these parcels to help spur economic development; and
  • collection and evaluation of air quality monitoring data at the Gerena School indicates that levels in the ambient air around the school compare closely to the levels of particulate matter reported at the other monitors in Springfield and has met the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

MassDEP also took enforcement action where appropriate, with significant actions including:

  • On January 15, 2013, MassDEP issued a $33,718 penalty to Pioneer Valley Refrigerated Warehouse Inc. in Chicopee for failure to notify MassDEP of a release of anhydrous ammonia at the facility that occurred on August 5, 2008 and for failure to respond to a Request for Information to obtain details of that release.
  • On January 2, 2013, MassDEP issued a $9,188 penalty to Hampden Framing Contractors, a construction firm based in Hampden, for the company's failure to notify MassDEP of a spill of diesel fuel that impacted several roadways in Springfield on June 15, 2012 and failure to take measures to clean up the spill.
  • On September 27, 2012, MassDEP issued an order to Trident Alloys, Inc. of Springfield to address a pile of 55-gallon drums, ash and foundry sand exposed to the elements on their property and causing runoff into a city catch basin.
  • MassDEP negotiated the terms of a settlement agreement with Associated Building Wreckers to conduct the demolition of a building on city-owned property. In lieu of collection of the penalty, the violator expended funds to take down the building, which was posing a hazard to the neighborhood.

Due to the success of this Initiative, City and community groups requested that MassDEP undertake a similar initiative in two additional neighborhoods near Ward 1, "Six Corners" and "Old Hill." Residents in these neighborhoods face similar challenges to those in Ward 1. In FY14, MassDEP is planning to complete a similar initiative in these neighborhoods, along with follow up to outstanding issue identified in the first effort.