Chain Forge Hotel Clears Environmental Regulators

June 28, 2018
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The Chain Forge hotel project in the Navy Yard has cleared the state’s environmental review process (MEPA) without a review, despite being a disposal site with high levels of PCBs present.

This month, Secretary Matthew Beaton issued a letter publicly that indicated Chain Forge did not need to prepare an Environmental Impact Report and proceed through the rigorous review process.

“I hereby determine that this project does not require the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR),” read the letter. “The Environmental Notification Form (ENF) has sufficiently defined the nature and general elements of the project for the purposes of MEPA review and demonstrated that the project’s environmental impacts will be avoided, minimized and/or mitigated to the extent practicable. Based on the information in the ENF and after consultation with State Agencies, I find that no further MEPA review is required.”

This paves the way for the long-delayed, 220-room hotel that will feature a restaurant, refurbishment of the old building, some new construction on top and a museum. A meeting of the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) last night, June 27, came too late for Patriot Bridge deadlines, but was advertised to be an update on impending construction.

The project has received an Order of Conditions from the Boston Conservation Commission.

The MEPA reviews look at everything from traffic, to pollution to stormwater drainage. In this case, Secretary Beaton indicated that the first filing was sufficient for MEPA purposes.

Even so, the site is an official disposal site and polluted with PCBs.

That was detailed in a letter from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as part of Beaton’s letter.

“The land is a disposal site,” read the DEP letter. “Soil and groundwater contamination was first identified at the site in 1993 by the United States Army Corp of Engineers. Contamination is likely due to 70 plus years of industrial use by the United States Navy for the production of anchor chain and other small metal parts within the on-site building.”

The DEP indicated that contaminants of concern in soil at the site include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), petroleum, volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds, metals and polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs). Elevated levels of PCBs have also been detected within the concrete floor of the building, the DEP wrote. On October 27, 2017, greater than a half-inch of non-aqueous phase liquid (NAPL) petroleum was detected on groundwater.

One of the concerns for the MWRA was that the Charlestown infrastructure on Chelsea Street often cannot handle surges of stormwater, which cause combined sewer and stormwater to discharge into the Little Mystic Channel. The MWRA urged the developers of Chain Forge to install sewer separation equipment in their project.

Finally, traffic has been brought up within the initial reviews as they expect 920 new trips and there is no parking on-site. An arrangement with the AutoPort has been struck for 200 off-site valet parking spots at that facility for the hotel.

A date for construction to begin has not yet been announced, but plans are now progressing.