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Select Board roundup: Emergency response test at Eversource LNG plant May 4; PFAS plan in works

by | Apr 25, 2023 | Featured: News, News, Police & Fire

During Tuesday night’s Select Board meeting, representatives from the town’s emergency services and Eversource discussed plans for an emergency response test for the liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility on Wilson Street.

The test is scheduled for Thursday, May 4, starting at 8 a.m. and expected to finish around 1 p.m.

Town Manager Norman Khumalo explained that the test is a requirement ordered by the state’s Department of Public Utilities (DPU) in 2018, and since then, the town has been “working collaboratively” with Eversource. This includes a tabletop exercise that was held in January.

“I think we all have recognized over the years that an effective response to any incident at the facility would require extensive collaboration between our Fire Department, Eversource, mutual aid partners, local officials, all working together,” Khumalo said. “And what I’m hearing tonight is that this cooperation doesn’t only occur on the day of an incident. It requires public safety officials and private sector entities to plan, train, exercise and equip themselves beforehand. This is what has been happening since 2018.”

Jim Blackburn, who manages the Eversource LNG engineering group, echoed Khumalo’s sentiment that the town and Eversource have “developed over the years a very collaborative relationship.”

“This training session is something we’ve been planning for the last year but we’ve been talking about for probably five, almost six years,” he said.

As part of the test, there will be pre-staged emergency vehicles on Legacy Farms Road North. While there will be blocked roads and limited access to much of the area, residents will be allowed to pass through, Police Chief Joseph Bennett said.

“The reason we really want to get out ahead of it through communication is we don’t want to cause alarm,” Bennett said. “It’s a big event, a big day, and we’re looking forward to really learning a lot about our capacity and our capability and what we need to work on.”

During the discussion, Select Board members raised questions about a network of gas lanterns that are designed in the case of a leak to intercept an LNG vapor cloud and help prevent it from igniting a residential area. A recent article at HopNews indicated that none of the lamps are operational.

Khumalo said that the town’s building inspector confirmed that the property owners (the homeowners) are responsible for the lamps but did not offer any more details.

PFAS plan in works

Board of Health chair Lisa Whittemore and Health Director Shaun McAuliffe appeared before the Select Board to provide an update on the PFAS situation in town.

Whittemore said state and federal regulators continue to study the situation and work on a plan for communities to deal with issues similar to Hopkinton. Until there is clarity there, the town plans to remain in a holding pattern.

“We don’t think it’s prudent to get out in front of those regulators,” Whittemore said, noting that more information is anticipated in the next 6-10 weeks. She added that currently it’s considered a violation if water tests at 20 parts per trillion, but it’s expected that the standard will be lowered to 4 parts per trillion.

Whittemore noted that PFAS are not just in water but can be found in items such as food packaging and dental floss.

“The [Department of Environmental Protection] now is recognizing food as a significant source of PFAS,” added McAuliffe.

Said Whittemore: “I think this is something that honestly as a country we’re going to have to grapple with in the next 5-10 years. Water will become the next climate crisis is my prediction.”

Whittemore said the Board of Health will provide information as it becomes available.

“We will update it on the website, make sure it goes out to the public,” she said. “As there’s enough information to make a coherent policy that people can abide by, the board will consider and then come before the Select Board so everybody is aware of it.”

On a related note, Khumalo said discussions continue with Southborough regarding an agreement for Hopkinton to connect to Southborough’s Massachusetts Water Resource Authority water.

Previously, Khumalo said Hopkinton would purchase the water from Southborough. However, he said Tuesday that while Southborough will be responsible for delivering the water, Hopkinton will become a direct customer of the MWRA and receive a bill from the state.

Misc.: Orale gets additional licenses

Orale, a new Mexican restaurant on Main Street that opened earlier this month, was awarded a license for alcohol and entertainment. …

Parade permits were granted for the New England Chinese American Alliance rally along the Boston Marathon route on May 20 starting at 7:30 a.m. as well as the third annual Pride Parade on June 11 from 1-4 p.m. starting at the Hopkinton Center for the Arts and proceeding along area streets. …

Regarding the Main Street Corridor Project, Khumalo said full-depth excavation of Main Street from the intersection with Grove Street to the Town Common is tentatively scheduled for early to mid-May. When that takes place, the hours for the project could be extended, including Saturday work, so that the excavation is completed more quickly.

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