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Rossi attempts to dig up answers on Corey Street

Date: 6/2/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM -- City Councilor Robert Rossi is attempting dig up answers concerning the possible acquisition of the former Agawam Sportsman's Club, 358 Corey St., as an extension of School Street Park.

Rossi told Reminder Publications he's exploring the option to draft a resolution that would use Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to purchase the approximately six-acre property as open space. He added that the CPA monies would also be used to clean up hazardous levels of arsenic and lead found in the soil.

"My purpose of contacting the mayor [Susan Dawson] and [City Solicitor] Chris Johnson is to know where we're going [on this land acquisition]," Rossi explained of his interoffice memos. "We need to get somebody to move on this thing [because it would be a] tremendous benefit for the town to go forward on this project."

He added that the property's existing water and sewer systems make the land suitable for recreation as well as open space.

Dawson said the Corey Street property would make for a "fantastic" addition to School Street Park; however, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have jurisdiction over the property because of the hazardous materials located there.

"This is a much bigger issue than just buying the property," she said.

Catherine Skiba, spokesperson for the MassDEP Western Region, explained that elevated levels of arsenic and lead have been found in the surface soil near the former firing range.

"[The] EPA will be conducting removal action of the soils out there," she said. "Areas with highest concentrations have been fenced off [from public access]."

Exposure to concentrated levels of lead can compromise the neurological, gastrointestinal, renal, cardiovascular or reproductive systems. Exposure to toxic forms of arsenic can lead to effects on the nervous and reproductive systems, skin or cause cancer.

Skiba noted that the EPA will finance the approximately one-year cleanup beginning this summer.