By Ken Krayeske • 7:15 PM EST
A workman carries a plastic tarp to cover a pile of allegedly contaminated debris at the former Mass Mutual insurance company site on Garden Street in Asylum Hill. Stumps from century-old elm trees point to the newly cleared sky - the Hartford, the insurance giant which now owns the site, razed the urban forest this week.
Ron Pitz of Knox Parks is keeping us informed. He sent me an e-mail with an explanation from the powers that be about the tree removal on the Mass Mutual site. Earlier, he had informed us of the destruction of the trees.
Apparently the soil surrounding the Mass Mutual building is contaminated with arsenic and according to the EPA and the DEP, the top layer of soil has to be removed in order to remediate it. The trees needed to be removed to complete this soil remediation process.
The fact is, arsenic in soil as well as other soil contaminants like lead, will stay in the soil until the soil is disturbed which releases it into the air. Tree roots will hold contaminants in place in the soil keeping the contaminants locked in place with little or no run off as long as the roots keep the soil from eroding.
Disturbing the soil with activities such as removing the trees and digging out the stumps will release the contaminants into the atmosphere and soil will erode washing contaminates into storm drains where eventually they will end up in the Ct River.
They have plans to replant some of the trees after the remediation process but this corner will never be the same….The site should have been left intact.
If they have plans to turn the corner into residential use then this process could not have been avoided. You can’t have kids playing in contaminated soil……..I have not heard of any immediate plans for the building so why be so quick to destroy such an important part of the essential urban forest?
Yeah - I'll agree the destruction of the trees was quick. And I would be they knew the neighbors might get mad. God forbid the Hartford dispatch Josh King to an Asylum Hill NRZ meeting.
Elsewhere around Hartford, Heather Brandon with a first person view from the Charter Revision Commission meeting last week. City Council representation by district? It is being discussed. And along with that change, I'd like public campaign financing for the mayoral race, and instant runoff voting.
So, exactly what part of the soil on the site is contaminated? This view from Fraser Place shows that there aren't great safety measures being taken.
This stack of rubble sits 15 feet away from the twisted pipes above. And if we look across the street, the empty lot below sits testament to the Hartford's need for more parking. Houses used to sit there. The argument will be made that the houses were deteriorating. It's only because they were allowed to. And it's not like there were in a historic district or anything. Enjoy the light and air of the new land, liberated from antique housing.
Can we call this a criminal act of corporate capitalistic colonialism in the urban core? More housing stock demolished for the tyranny of the automobile. It's not like anyone needed the houses anyway. Who wants to live in the city when you can commute, and pretend you are safe...