AYER — Reflecting back on the 2006 spill, Ayer Selectmen Chairman Gary Luca didn’t mince words. “It should have been reported immediately …they knew what the law reads.” Luca noted the spill occurred at Depot Square in an area that is not deemed to be immediately above the town’s drinking water supply. “The incident was unfortunate and could have been quite disastrous if the leak happened in another location that was in a closer proximity to our wells.”
Pan Am has certainly taken it on the chin as far as the ensuing public relations repercussions in the aftermath of the spill. The town rallied in large numbers for a Town Hall summit in protest of the railroad’s joint venture with Norfolk Southern Railway to build an 800- plus car automobile transfer facility on Willow Road. Ultimately the work proceeded but with stormwater filtration systems in place.
Work is now afoot on Phase 2 — a 1200-plus car automobile transfer facility aside Phase 1.
“I’m glad to hear they’ve lost their appeal,” said Selectman Carolyn McCreary. “They were clearly in violation of DEP regulations.”
McCreary noted that Phase 2 faces the same concern and scrutiny by Ayer DPW Superintendent Dan Nason. This time the call is for the same proprietary Stormceptor brand stormwater filtration devices to be installed in Phase 2 . Pan Am has balked, citing price.
“PanAm’s current approach to the expansion of their unloading operations is very disturbing,” said McCreary. “When [Pan Am VP] Cynthia Scarano appeared before the selectmen several weeks ago, she clearly stated that cost, not aquifer protection, was driving their decision to choose a stormwater system that was not as robust as the Stormceptors used in Phase I. This court case shows once again that spills happen, and if a spill like the one in 2006 were to occur on the Spectacle Pond site, our town wells would surly be contaminated.”
The development has brought benefit in the form of growth in taxable commercial property. Luca notes that Pan Am remains a corporate citizen of Ayer
“Going forward, my hope is that something was learned from the incident and proper procedures for reporting and containment are adhered to,” said Luca. “Pan Am has a large investment in Ayer and hopefully they will be a good corporate neighbor for our community and respect the needs of its citizens.”
A request for comment from Pan Am was not returned by presstime.