simmering disagreement over an odor control
facility planned for Columbia Point - next to the
future site of Corcoran Jennison Companies'
gigantic "Bayside on the Point" developmen - became
a slugfest this week when a state board voted not
to alter its original design after months of
Calling the facility a threat to air quality
across South Boston and Dorchester tantamount to
the worst kind of port-o-potty experience, Joseph
J. Corcoran all but threatened to pull the plug on
the billion-dollar plus development, which has been
touted as a "new neighborhood" on the Point.
"We believe that this decision by the MWRA will
jeopardize the feasibility of the project," wrote
Corcoran in a letter to Joseph Palmieri, director
of the Boston Redevelopment Authority dated Nov.
The company's flap with the MWRA boils down to a
difference of opinion between engineers from each
camp on just what kind of impact the facility would
have on local nostrils after a large rain event.
The odor control building would sit on the up-end
of a 2.1-mile long, 17-foot wide tunnel that could
store up to 18 million gallons of storm water that,
during severe rainstorms, would be mixed with a
smaller amount of raw sewage. A federal court
mandated the work along with several other projects
of its kind in the late 80s, the aim being a clean
up of Boston Harbor.
The odor control technology uses activated
carbon filters to reduce the offending emanations,
eventually releasing the air offset by incoming
stormwater from a 40-foot-high stack. But Michael
Lannan of Tech Environmental, Corcoran's hired
consultant, contends that the wind blowing in from
the ocean would flow over the 35-foot high brick
building, carrying the emerging effluents from the
40-foot high stack down to the ground on the other
"It touches down almost immediately, before
there's any dispersion," he said.
Maps created by Lannan's team detail the odor's
dispersion for one hour after a peak rain
event&emdash;the scale of which would not happen
every year. They show an inner circle around the
Boston Teacher's Union, part of Carson's beach and
part of the current Bayside Expo Center where the
smell, according to Corcoran, would be akin to
"walking into a bathroom that smells so foul that
you must immediately turn around and exit." The
smell would also be "noticeable," according to the
map, as far south as Savin Hill and well north of
Broadway in South Boston.
To work better, Lannan said, the stack would
have to be much higher. Or, as is preferred by
Corcoran, the facility could be built mostly
Frederick Laskey, executive director of the MWRA
board of directors, completely rejects Lannan's
traveling smell assessment. He calls the analysis
"We have these facilities in Quincy where you
could hit a golf ball to a house," said Laskey.
"They're all in urban areas, and no complaints.
Activated carbon is a tried and true method of odor
control. It's not raw sewage 24-seven, 365 days a
year. It is, for the most part, highly diluted
storm water that will come in when we have storms.
So in many ways it's a misnamed vent building, but
we're already in this discussion about an odor
One of those facilities, the 1.8 million gallon
Union Park Facility, is located in the South End.
Corcoran Jennison created a video of homeowner
George Triantafillidis, who lives just across Union
Park Street from that vent building, talking about
a continuing odor and other problems after the MWRA
rehabbed the building two years ago.
A very brief survey of homeowners along that
street shows differing opinions along the street,
Emorfily Potsides, reached at his home that he
bought in 1997 across from the Union Park Facility,
said, "The problem is not solved. When the rain
comes it smells like [expletive] across
But Scott Walters, who moved into a condo a few
doors down from Potsides in June 2006 and runs an
email listserv for neighborhood issues, said he
hasn't heard the issue of an odor come up yet, and
hasn't smelled it himself.
Walters said he senses that his neighbors, many
of whom lived through five years of construction at
the site, hold a grudge against the MWRA. Niether
he, nor his wife, said they could smell anything
after a rain. "Maybe I just don't have a good sense
what's the word? - Olfactory, yes."
In recent months, Congressman Stephen Lynch and
state Sen. Jack Hart have lobbied hard with the
MWRA on Corcoran's behalf. Under pressure, the MWRA
offered to split the estimated $3 million cost with
Corcoran Jennison. But Corcoran doesn't believe
they should pay for a public works job that could
potentially stink up a wide swath of the
"Almost two years ago the Corcoran family had
called them and raised a concern with the odor
control facility, which is on their property line,"
said Sen. Hart. "I raised the issue with MWRA and
we worked to resolve this matter
is this: Joe Corcoran is a landowner that has value
in his land. That value has been impacted first by
the construction of the [new South Boston]
convention center, and now by this odor control
facility. What the MWRA is asking him to do here is
Of course the MWRA's advisory board, which
represents the ratepayers, holds a contrary
"The ratepayer, who has and will spend over $300
million to clean up the beaches, really should not
be asked to put down another dime for an odor
control facility whose design process began in
1997," said Joseph Favaloro, the advisory board's
executire director. "I'll tell you how we'll split
the cost. One hundred percent for Mr. Corcoran,
zero percent for the ratepayers."
"I'm not looking to spend the ratepayers money
unwisely," said Hart. "I am very cognizant and I
try to be responsible in that regard. But there is,
in my opinion, an injustice here."
Adding yet another wrinkle to the argument,
Corcoran's consultants - including Lannon and
well-respected structural engineer Dave Berg - say
an underground facility can be built for almost
half of what the MWRA's engineers estimate by
reorganizing the machinery inside on a smaller
Joe J. Corcoran met with Laskey on Nov. 7 to
present this idea, but Laskey said he did not pass
this option on to the board because he was provided
with no details of the plan.
"All we got was a one line e-mail that says $1.7
million with no details on it," said Laskey. "If
they have better ideas, we'd like to see them. We
just haven't seen any meat on the bones."
Lannon said he provided Corcoran with a "basic
conceptual mechanical design layout" of the more
compact facility, but wasn't sure if Corcoran
carried it into the meeting with Laskey. And to
Laskey's claim that his odor control analysis was
not credible, Lannon responded:
"Well that's interesting, because we just did
odor control training for them recently."
An MWRA spokesperson confirmed the training
contract this week.
Nevertheless, Laskey insists that the project
must move forward in order to meet a March 2011
deadline set by a federal judge.
"In our view we have made a good faith effort to
cooperate with Corcoran Jennison," he said. "We
said we would talk about half. He never got beyond
that. We've kind of been involved in a little dance
here and we've run out of time."
control facility raises new questions on Columbia
Point- Feb. 21, 2008
developers go public with site plans- July 17,
outline new-deal for Columbia Point- August 14,
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