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Case Estates Soil Cleanup Process Stalled Pending Further Review

Selectman Michael Harrity: "Harvard underestimated the complication" of soil remediation process.

The news about the latest developments with Case Estates is in, and according to Weston selectman Michael Harrity, there’s not really news at all.

In an update about the issue at Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting at , Harrity told attendees that the process of continuing the terms of the present contract between Weston and Harvard University to purchase the 62.5-acre parcel of land located near the intersections of Wellesley, School and Ash streets with agreed-upon soil remediation has proven “very complicated” from Harvard’s point of view.

The original acquisition was approved by voters at a Special Town Election in November 2006 but was soon delayed by the discovery of contaminants in the soil, creating protracted debate between the town and Harvard as to how, and to what extent, to go about cleaning up the contaminants.

As part of the original purchase agreement, Harvard agreed to clean up the site before the town purchased the land. In May 2010, Weston residents approved a revision to the original agreement – a “hybrid” remediation plan – that reduced the purchase price to $19.5 million and revised Harvard’s cleanup plan for approximately 10 acres, with Harvard retaining ownership of some parcels.

According to a selectman’s presentation given in September 2011, “Cleaning the entire site to standards that allow unlimited future use everywhere is not an option that Harvard sees as appropriate now.”

Issues outlined at that meeting included the clean-up approach for different portions of the site, the price, the risks, the town’s intended future uses, and the timing of the transaction.

In the update at Monday’s meeting, Harrity, who acts as the liaison for the town for negotiations with Harvard, reiterated the “complicated” nature of the remediation, saying little concrete progress has been made to move plans forward, despite his having “urged (Harvard)” to do so.

“Harvard underestimated the complications” of remediating the land, said Harrity. “(By now) we expected them to move on” with plans.

Some residents and Case Estates abutters also attended the meeting, with one saying, “(Harvard) needs to be clearer with its intentions in the next rounds of testing,” and another expressing frustration with the “broad, brush-stroke generalizations” she felt Harvard made in a recent submission to the Planning Board.

The discussion wrapped with Harrity dismissing the likelihood that anything would be ready for voters to decide on by Town Meeting in May, saying, “Given (how) slowly they’ve moved with the delineation of the contamination, I’m reluctant to give a timeframe.”

“Every time we have put forth the schedule by Harvard, we’ve missed it by years,” he added.

 

 

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