Legislation requiring toxin notification hits Statehouse


AYER — For resident Marilyn McMillan, March 9, 2004, is a date she’ll never forget. That’s the day the Department of Environmental Protection closed down her family business, Video Star, on West Main Street due to environmental contamination from a dry-cleaning business that operated out of the location before her.

It’s also the day McMillan gained a newfound appreciation for the importance of environmental legislation, a topic she said she’s researched at great length since.

She’s learned about perchloroethylene (PCE), a persistent cleaning solvent that was prevalent within the building. It’s been linked to cancer, and McMillan is convinced PCE is behind the chronic migraine headaches and nausea she experienced for months while on the job.

She also discovered that Massachusetts General Law doesn’t require landlords to notify tenants when they become aware of toxic contaminants within rental properties.

McMillan is determined to see that law changed. A bill co-sponsored by state Sen. Pamela Resor and Rep. James Eldridge could do just that.

McMillan worked to get the word out on a press conference and meeting held Jan. 22. Her hope was enough proponents would show up to convince legislators of the bill’s importance.

“We’ve got to support this,” she said. “This is the kickoff to tell people why it’s important. The battle has yet to be fought in the halls of the Statehouse (or) behind closed doors. The more people who get behind this, the better the chances are this will get through.”

In a statement released by her office, Resor spoke on the importance of the legislation.

“Hazardous waste contamination is a serious issue and can have long-lasting effects on the environment and an individual’s health,” she said. “People have a right to know if the property they rent or the commercial space they lease has a history of toxic chemical contamination.

“As a result of Marilyn Macmillan’s experience, this proposed legislation would require landlords to disclose this information,” she said. “Rep. Eldridge and I will be speaking out on this important issue to help garner more support for this measure in the Legislature.”

In a release, Eldridge expressed similar sentiments.

“This legislation will make sure that what Marilyn McMillan and her family went through won’t happen to anyone else in Massachusetts again,” said Eldridge. “Tenants have a right to know if the properties they may rent are hazardous to their health.”

McMillan is convinced there are moral and ethical reasons to push for this legislation, but she said there’s something personal in it as well.

“I think there’s a reason I was thrown in the middle of all of this,” she said. “If I can bring this to light, I’ll know something positive can come out of all of this.”