Officials from the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) detailed the agency’s $4.25 million remediation and reuse plan for the Shaffer Paper site on Tuesday night during a Port Norfolk Civic Association meeting.
The waterfront site has been in state control for decades and neighbors have long pressed state officials to use it as a public park. But the 14 acre parcel is loaded with contaminants from its previous use as an industrial site— a problem that has driven up costs and delayed the project for years.
Last year, Governor Deval Patrick’s administration committed to move ahead on both the clean-up and the park’s construction.
Deputy Chief Engineer Mike Misslin of the DCR described the remediation phase as “the base of the project” and encouraged residents of Port Norfolk to share their ideas on what they’d like to see as the parcel is transformed into a park.
“The health issue, we need to resolve for you folks first,” Misslin said. “We can always add in other stuff later.”
Misslin acknowledged that some remain skeptical about the project’s scope, but he assured the Port Norfolk audience that a park will be built and that the DCR is currently in its permitting and designing phase. He then gave a timeline, saying that it will take about 18 months for the construction phase to be ready. “Permitting is where we’re at which will be going into the spring and summer. The contracting will begin in November  and the construction will start in the spring [of 2015],” he said.
Misslin said “getting to the goal line has been challenging” with changing climate issues and sea levels rising as a result.
“The intensity and range [of rainfall] has changed dramatically since 2000. More rainfall effects river and sea levels which change the property,” he said.
The DCR found that the major concerns lie with lead contaminated soil and dilapidated sea walls. Misslin and Anne Leifer, Senior Project Manager at GEI Consultants, Inc., said that mud flap contamination will not be resolved at the moment because it will cost the DCR too much money and won’t stop the Polychlorinated Biphenyls, or PCBs, from coming upstream to contaminate the water.
Leifer gave a brief history of the Shaffer paper site and explained how it was originally marsh land that was filled in during the 1950s. She said the area was a lumberyard that was used for flounder fishing until it became an industrial area that led to more hazardous waste and contamination then was brought on by the landfill. The site was acquired by the Metropolitan District Committee in 1986 and then was purchased by the DCR. Industrial buildings on the property were demolished in the early 1990s.
Leifer said the DCR was advised to leave the salt marshes on the site as they are “a valuable resource” and are “not too contaminated.” They are looking to remove more debris and some seawall, including the wooden seawall and a portion of the granite seawall.
She described the features of the proposed park as being a mix of lawn, trees and meadows along with a walking trail and bike paths that are already in place. A DCR maintenance building on the property will still be used for storage which will now be kept indoors.
Funding for the permitting phase began this year and what will follow will be the bidding phase for the project.
“We will have most of the permits in hand or will know what the agencies want from us or want us to do by then,” Misslin said.
Fiscal years 2015 and 2016 will be devoted to the construction phase, once a contract is in place.
“The money is there in the books of the Commonwealth and it’s ready to go,” Misslin said.
Donna Bishop of Lawley Street, who has been in the neighborhood since 1997, said the presentation was “wonderful.”
“Several years ago I did a walkthrough of the site with politicians who said, ‘100 percent, guaranteed we’re going to do this now.’ That was a long time ago. Now it seems like it’s really coming together.”
Christian Sann of Philip Street said the project is “great for the community.”
“It’s a wonderful addition to the renaissance of what has become Dorchester and the City of Boston,” he said. His main concern is the effect the two year construction work will have on traffic in the neighborhood overall.
Deputy Commissioner Kevin Whalen of the DCR said that Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration is “committed” to cleaning up this site as one of its final tasks and thanked the people of Port Norfolk with their patience and support.
Suggestions can be sent to the DCR via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.