Haverhill city councilors may turn to state or federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to address “30 years of frustration” from Bradford residents over noise and foul odors from a commuter rail train layover facility.
Councilors approved a motion by Vice President Melinda E. Barrett to invite leaders from the MBTA and train operator Keolis to a meeting with a council subcommittee to “revisit” an agreement reached two years in order to improve responses to residents’ complaints. Barrett pointed to, what she called, “underwhelming” responses from the rail agencies and the EPA to the latest incident—a misfiring diesel train engine at the layover in February.
“The malfunction of the trains on Feb. 14 that caused the neighbors in the Verndale Street, Germain Avenue and Front Street and the general areas around Wood School was to them, apparently, a minor issue of a misfiring engine. To the people downwind, smog permeated homes for hours, waking them from sleep on a freezing cold morning. And it was in many cases beyond annoying because it caused headaches, nausea and a need to leave their homes,” Barrett said.
Others, including Councilor William J. Macek, expressed frustrations over “promises” from the MBTA the past 30 years to deal with the train layover issues, including relocation to other communities. He also questioned whether the trains are legally allowed to be kept there.
“It may be time to bring out the big guns, get them to go back to Boston, because they’ve also suggested they could do that but they won’t do it,” Macek said. “Maybe the union has pressure on management that they won’t conform, but it’s time for everybody to step up and do the right thing. This can’t keep going on because it’s wrong and there’s even a question as to whether or not there has been, over the 30 years, possible contamination and toxicity to the soils over there.”
Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan also said he, as a former legislative aide, heard promises to local lawmakers the past 30 years which were not kept.
“They do bring 30 years of watching and participating in meetings that accomplish nothing, because they’ll tell you anything you want to hear within reason but then they just do what they want. And it’s pretty clear. Over 30 years, nothing,” Sullivan said.
A proposed relocation of the layover facility to Plaistow, N.H., as part of a commuter rail service extension study, was rejected by that town’s voters in March, 2015.