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Army on fast track turnover for pharmaceutical firm site


AOC 43J, the site the Army is fast-tracking for MassDevelopment for the potential sale to Bristol Myers Squibb Corporation is located at the center of this map, abutting Patton Road and Queenstown Street

DEVENS — The Army is in the early stages of transferring a 13-acre parcel of land abutting Patton Road and Queenstown Street to MassDevelopment in order to facilitate the potential sale of the property to a large pharmaceutical firm, said Robert Simeone, base realignment and closure (BRAC) environmental coordinator.

The announcement was part of a Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) meeting at The Bromfield School in Harvard.

According to MassDevelopment Environmental Coordinator Ronal Ostrowski, the firm is Bristol Myers Squibb, which MassDevelopment is trying to locate in Devens. The Devens site is among the top two or three Bristol Myers Squibb is considering from a list of 89 sites nationally, said Ostrowski.

Simeone released voluminous environmental assessments from the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Agency, MassDevelopment environmental analysis and the Army’s Finding of Suitability for Early Transfer (FOSET).

Known as area of concern (AOC) 43J, the parcel was used as a gas station and motor pool in the 1940s and 1950s. After the station closed in the 1950s, a 5,000-gallon underground gasoline tank, a 1,000-gallon waste oil tank, a dry well, cesspool and maintenance building with floor drains remained in place.

Subsequent Army remediation efforts resulted in a “no further action” status being assigned to the dry well, cesspool and floor drain. The tanks and contaminated soil were removed in 1992.

Between 1993 and 1996, remediation efforts were made such as ground penetrating radar and seismic refractions to define the surface of bedrock, the drilling of more than 60 terraprobe points, the installation of 10 monitoring wells, drilling and sampling 15 soil borings and nine screened auger borings, aquifer conductivity testing and the laboratory analysis of environmental samples.

Cleanup was done with a method called intrinsic bioremediation that included preventing the migration of groundwater. A second five-year review cleared the land for use by utility, maintenance and construction workers, followed by clearance for commercial employees.

At present, the parcel contains Marine Reserve Unit vehicle maintenance buildings, a parking area and vehicles, and a fenced-in asphalt area.

Early transfers — officially called a Covenant Deferral Requests — can be complicated, Simeone said, because the redevelopment authority and future owner will take over some cleanup responsibility.

That may happen, he said, but as of now agreements have been made, and the package will include an actual deed. The Army will remain responsible for the cleanup of any new environmental threat.

”The timetable is fast track, and the Army is committed to transfer to MassDevelopment by the beginning of June,” Simeone said. “The Army has been looking to do some land swap deals, and this is an exchange agreement between the Army and the state.”

All of the other transfers are being done under a more normal BRAC process.

Some of the latter are the Barnum Road area, the Park School grounds and four acres on the North Post abutting Route 2A where monitoring wells have been installed near the parachute-rigging building.

Simeone said 200 acres at the North Post have already been transferred to MassDevelopment, and the process for the four acres, which is linked to the Moore Army Airfield cleanup, may start in fall.

”Nothing is planned for that (four-acre) area,” Ostrowksi said.