EPA warns of air quality

MILFORD – The EPA has expanded its neighborhood outreach after a Cottage Street family said they should have been contacted about air quality problems from the Fletcher Paint Superfund Site cleanup.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency temporarily suspended its cleanup work in February at the Mill Street portion of the site and notified Mill Street residents after air monitors showed higher than expected levels of pollutants.

As General Electric Co. and its contractor are cleaning up PCB contamination on Elm and Mill streets, the EPA is monitoring air quality to make sure PCB emissions don’t go higher than the recommended threshold of 0.1 micrograms per cubic meter. Brad and Liann Wilkins told The Cabinet and the EPA that they hadn’t been notified, even though one of the EPA’s air monitors is close to their children’s swing set in their Cottage Street backyard.

"My six kids play outside all the time," Brad Wilkins said in an email. "When were we going to be informed about the air contaminants? We had to find out from reading your article in the Milford Cabinet." Jim Murphy, EPA community involvement coordinator, said last week that he has been walking the neighborhood and knocking on doors to inform more people.

Town Administrator Mark Bender said the safety of children is the town’s highest priority and that officials will be watching the levels closely. Although the federal target is 0.1 micrograms, the state Department of Environmental Service’s target is higher, at 2.4, he said, and that the 0.1 represents a slight elevation.

But Wilkins said his children range in age from 3-10, and hat no level of pollution sounds good. "I don’t want hear 50 years from now" they have health problems, Wilkins said.

Along with the Mill Street monitors, there was also a background monitor at the nearby police station on Garden Street that was closed down because it was continuously reading zero emissions. A monitor is expected to be added to a spot near the middle school and high school. As of April 4, all seven air monitors showed levels significantly below 0.1. At the selectmen’s April 11 meeting, Chairman Mark Fougere said if they are monitoring at the high school, half a mile away, they should be doing more outreach with residents who live close to Mill Street.

It is "frustrating because we have been dealing with this 20 years and want it done, but we don’t want create a public health issue," he said.