Councilors believe city water concerns were heard at national level following conference

Westfield City Councilors Andrew K. Surprise, Matthew Emmershy and Daniel Allie attend the Northeast White House Regional Conference July 15-16, 2019. (Photo submitted)

WESTFIELD – City Councilors Daniel Allie, Matthew Emmershy and Andrew K. Surprise spent July 15-16 at the Northeast White House Regional Conference and returned feeling the city’s concerns about its contaminated wells are being heard.

The councilors met with staff from the offices of U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, and U.S. Rep. James McGovern, D-Worcester, regarding PFAS water contamination, infrastructure and more.

Surprise met with McGovern, a member of the Congressional PFAS Task Force, to discuss ways to expedite the Department of Defense’s CERCLA process. CERCLA is the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, commonly known as Superfund. The city has a claim against the DOD because firefighting foam used at the 104th Fighter Wing at the Barnes Air Base contaminated city wells.

Following the meeting, Surprise said he felt their concerns and urgency to receive compensation for well filtration were understood by McGovern.

“Considering that Congressman McGovern is a member of the Congressional PFAS Taskforce, I am optimistic that his support will help to push the DOD and ANG to expedite the CERCLA process,” he said.

Surprise said he believes Neal also supports residents’ concerns.

“I believe we were heard,” he said. “The meeting with Congressman Neal’s chief of staff was a follow-up to a conversation regarding the PFAS contamination, funding and alternate sources of water, which Councilor Emmershy and I had with the Congressman prior to the beginning of the Westfield 350th parade. Westfield residents can be assured that several of us on the City Council will not rest or relent until the contamination issue has been resolved.”

Surprise said Neal’s office will be following up with the councilors next week, and McGovern will coordinate with them.

“Going forward, the citizens of Westfield can expect more attention to this issue at the federal level, and more engagement by the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, as well as coordination between local, state, and federal officials to solve the problem.,” said Surprise. “At the local level we will not be standing idle either, with a ballot petition for the November 2019 ballot going forward this year. That petition will require the City of Westfield to tap into the Tighe-Carmody Reservoir. This petition will be available to sign, and for distribution at the ATSDR-CDC/DoD Public Health Exposure Assessment meeting at Westfield Intermediate School on July 23.”

Emmershy said he was thankful for the opportunity to fight for clean water for Westfield and meet with decision makers at the federal level and White House.

“It is crucial that we establish direct lines of communication between the local, state and federal governments to better serve our constituents,” said Emmershy.

Allie said it was an opportunity to put Westfield’s issues in the national forefront.

“I appreciate the commitment by the President and administration’s effort to reach out to build and foster relationship with state and local officials around the country, give us their contact information, be able to ask questions, share our challenges, and have our voices heard on issues we face locally,” said Allie.

The conference was hosted by the President’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and included briefings from senior administration officials and panel participants from several federal agencies. The groups discussed community revitalization, economic development and Opportunity Zones, infrastructure, environmental protection and water infrastructure, transportation, education, energy, veteran services, and the opioid epidemic with municipal leaders from throughout the northeast, and other regions of the country.




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