May 28, 2009

Oil Cocktails at unHappy Hour, Friday, May 29, 5-7 pm

Press release from the Coalition for Aquifer Protection
Contact: Susan Tordella – 978 772 3930, susan dot tordella @ gmail

The public is invited for a drink during unHappy Hour after work on Friday, May 29, 5-7 pm at the Ayer Rotary [Routes 110/2A], not far from the site of the Spectacle Pond aquifer where Pan Am and Norfolk Southern Railroads are paving a 26-acre site for an 800-space lot to unload Ford vehicles from trains to trucks. UPS will handle logistics at the site.

Bartenders will serve cocktails tainted with automotive fluids. A display of local products made with water from the aquifer will be on the bar, including VeryFine, Cains, Nasoya and Pepsi/Aquafina. UnHappy Hour will be held rain or shine.

State Sen. Jamie Eldridge [D-Ayer/Littleton] will attend. He said, “I am deeply concerned about PanAm and Norfolk Southern Railroads’ proposed car unloading facility being placed so close to an aquifer. A spill at the site would be devastating to our local communities, deeply compromising the safety of the water we drink. We have the responsibility to protect our supply for current residents and generations to come.”

It’s not a matter of if there will be spills, but when.

According to Attorney General Martha Coakley, the railroads have “a long track record of violating the environmental laws, including a particularly long record of unreported releases of oil and other hazardous materials to the environment, and have utterly failed to develop reliable or consistent environmental management systems despite having been ordered to do so repeatedly,” in the Commonwealth’s Memorandum on Sentencing of Pan Am and imposition of a $400,000 fine on March 30, 2009.

Pan Am was fined for failing to report and for under-reporting a spill of between 900 and 1700 gallons of diesel fuel a few miles down the track in Ayer two years ago. Initially, the company filed a tardy report of a spill of less than 9 gallons. A similar spill at the Willow Road aquifer would contaminate the well and render it undrinkable.

We have no confidence that the railroads will prevent and report spills at the Ayer site, which Coakley also addressed in the sentencing memorandum: “The defendants’ compliance history with both the Commonwealth and the State of Maine is remarkable not only for the defendants’ repeated failures to report spills of oil and hazardous materials, but also for their failure to adopt or implement required spill response plans or an overall environmental management system sufficient to prevent future spills.”

We refuse to stand by idly while the keys to our aquifer are being handed over to Ford, UPS and Pan Am/Norfolk Southern. It is paramount to building a skyscraper over a fault zone or skiing in an avalanche zone. The risk for disaster is high.

The Town of Ayer lost a 10-year legal battle to block the project. The railroads based their defense an arcane 1860 law that guarantees railroads the right to interstate commerce -- written more than a century before the conception of environmental protection.

We appeal to the governor and our congressional delegation to intercede and grant the aquifer a stay of execution. With all legal solutions expired, our only option is public outcry and generating the political will to stop construction now and use a similar huge lot, across the street, owned by a competitor – CSX. The nearby lot sits empty and unused while an aquifer is being bulldozed.

Our politicians and business leaders of Ford Motor Company, UPS, PanAm, Norfolk Southern, CSX, Cains, Pepsi/Aquafina, Nasoya and VeryFine can negotiate a solution that will work for everyone. The lot across the street is empty, acceptable and available.

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