Due to community organizing and strong resident support, plans to expand Aggregate Industries - a large asphalt plant in Chelmsford, Massachusetts - have been withdrawn. This is a huge victory for the people of Chelmsford and for all of us who support environmental justice.
Aggregate Industries is a Saugus-based asphalt mixing company that has 28 locations across the state. At one site this spring, Aggregate was forced to pay more than $500,000 for violating the Clean Air Act.
Over the past few months, the company drew plans to increase storage tanks at the Chelmsford location. The storage tanks currently hold 70,000 gallons of liquid asphalt and the proposed expansion would more than double capacity to 170,000 gallons. Claims that the larger tank will be an environmental improvement were shot down by members of Chelmsford Advocates for a Safe Environment (CASE), a group of residents devoted to environmental justice. CASE members argue that the new plan would generate more truck traffic and pollution.
The asphalt plant is across the street from a mobile home park and less than a mile away from an elementary school. CASE members suspect that for years, emissions from the plant have resulted in higher rates of lung disease and cancer locally.
The plant allegedly burned more than 500,000 gallons of waste oil resulting in a mysterious black soot that blanketed the town. Last month, air quality tests conducted near the plant showed that the soot still exists. Though our Services Program, ACE connected CASE with Katherine Fogarty, an environmental engineer who is volunteering to continue air quality testing in the area.
The news of Aggregate's expansion plan withdrawal is a positive step towards environmental justice, but the battle is far from over. CASE's next initiative is to push for reforms, such as better operating hours and truck traffic regulations.
Check out a video by CASE Organizer Rachel Harvey documenting the heavy volume of traffic near the plant.