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I-Team: Removal of hazardous debris in Chelsea nearly complete

I-Team: Removal of hazardous debris in Chelsea ahead of nearly complete
I-Team: Removal of hazardous debris in Chelsea ahead of nearly complete 02:09

CHELSEA – MassDOT says it is ahead of schedule removing hazardous soil it dumped in Chelsea. White plastic is covering up the last of the asbestos pile.

Last month, the I-Team discovered the hazardous debris sitting uncovered with danger signs around it on the side of the highway next to public housing, taken from a bridge construction project in Lynn/Salem last July.

The pile was there for nearly a year. The state Department of Transportation never told Chelsea or the community. In a meeting last week with residents, Roseann Bongiovanni, the executive director of Green Roots, an environmental justice organization said, "Thank you for bringing light to the situation. It could have been another year that we sat with this contaminated pile in our backyard had it not been for your investigative reporting."

The community told the I-Team it expected the state to come to the meeting to apologize for all the angst it caused. Instead, MassDOT Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver said he would only apologize for the miscommunication and failing to notify Chelsea officials. "We've given the apology we are going to give," Gulliver said. "We followed the regulatory process." 

But Green Roots says those guidelines have been committing environmental racism for decades.

The state has spent weeks trucking the soil to an out of state landfill, conducting air quality testing during the removal.

The results have not shown any dangerous levels of asbestos. Still residents are concerned about getting sick in the future, worrying about all of the months when the pile was not covered, and no testing was done.

Roseann says the state needs to mitigate the impact all of this has had on the community calling what happened in Chelsea, "textbook environmental racism, dumping hazardous waste in a community of color and not acknowledging something is wrong with that."

The state says it has now put in place rules to prevent something like this from happening again. Green Roots says it is looking into suing the state. 

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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