Port Norfolk wants action on long-delayed Shaffer Paper site

Mary McCarthy is tired of waiting. A civic leader in Port Norfolk’s neighborhood, she has been pushing for the clean-up of the 14-acre area known as the former Shaffer Paper site for years.

“We’re not sitting back on this,” she said. “We want this site cleaned up.”

In 2011, officials with the Department of Conservation and Recreation gave them a timeline: The project would be complete by 2014, with a budget of $4 million for remediation and construction.

But McCarthy is looking for a shovel in the ground, and all she sees are other projects getting the go-ahead, she said. McCarthy and other members of the Port Norfolk Civic Association have pressed for the “environmentally hazardous” site to be cleaned up and turned into a riverside park.

“We’re getting the same old answers, so to speak,” McCarthy said.

Despite requests for comment over the course of a month, the Department of Conservation and Recreation did not respond to a request for comment and information on the project from the Reporter.

McCarthy acknowledged that a struggling economy hampered many projects across the state, but she added that the state has said it plans to go forward with the Neponset River Greenway Trail.

The Neponset project has also struggled to get funding for several years. In June, the Patrick administration said it would set aside $1.9 million in capital funds to design the trail’s completion and pledged to finish the project, which is expected to cost between $11 million and $15 million.

McCarthy said she supports the greenway project, but her neighbors are concerned about how hazardous the Shaffer Paper site is.

According to a 2011 Reporter article, a 2008 survey conducted by GEI Consultants found “elevated levels of heavy metals including lead and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the area, as well as some trace signs of polychlorinated biphenyls that do not pose a major risk according to Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.”

“People are concerned about their health,” McCarthy said. “The state needs to act. They have to stop putting it off. Other projects can’t be going forward – this has to be the focus because it’s such a hazard.”