Bedford Streamlines Permitting Process for Hazardous Materials

Submitted by Alyssa Sandoval,  Bedford’s Ecconomic Development Coordinator

Diverse Bedford companies attended the informational workshop including Anika Therapeutics, Joule Unlimited, IRobot, 1366 Technologies, and Hologic among others - Courtesy image
Diverse Bedford companies attended the recent informational workshop including Anika Therapeutics, Joule Unlimited, IRobot, 1366 Technologies, and Hologic among others – Courtesy image

As part of Bedford’s continuing engagement with businesses, the town’s Fire, Code, Public Works, Health, and Police Departments held an informational workshop on December 10, 2014 hosted by Anika Therapeutics on Wiggins Avenue in Bedford. Twenty-five Environmental Health and Safety and Facilities personnel from a wide range of biotech and advanced manufacturing companies attended the workshop.

Bedford’s Fire Chief David Grunes lead the information meeting with the goals of providing information to companies on new changes to the Massachusetts Fire Code starting in 2015 and presenting a streamlined process to collect data for local contingency plans required as part of the Town’s hazardous material bylaw.

The Town made a conscious effort to align the reporting defined in the local bylaw requirements with Massachusetts Building and Fire codes to streamline the submittal and review process.   The Police Department also provided helpful tips on emergency 911 call procedures, and representatives from the Department of Public Works were on hand to answer questions regarding water, sewer and roads. Town Manager Rick Reed noted that Bedford departments have a wealth of expertise in hazardous materials permitting and Bedford has the ability to permit these types of facilities swiftly while maintaining safety and compliance with state codes and regulations.

In light of the imminent changes to the Massachusetts Fire Code starting in January 2015, Jeremy Lebowitz, a code consultant from RJA Associates, gave an informative presentation highlighting the primary changes which would apply to all businesses. Fire Captain Mark Sullivan also noted that Bedford expects that companies will need a few months to review changes to the Code to make sure they are compliant. Captain Sullivan also noted that the Fire Department cannot permit any quantity of hazardous materials over what the particular building can handle according to the Fire Code, which has come up on occasion with multi-tenant buildings.

One of the positive changes to the hazardous materials process is that companies can now submit contingency plans directly on the Board of Health’s website explained Heidi Porter, Board of Health Director.  Heidi Porter also lead the companies through the standardized template for submitting plans noting annual submittals will now be due by March 31to make this consistent for all businesses in Bedford and to expedite town processing.

Bringing real world experience to the table, Mike Landadio, from EMD Millipore, presented an example of an incident that resulted in a successful conclusion because of the company’s strong working relationship with Bedford’s Fire and Police Departments.

Bedford Police Sergeant Ron Undzis walked the companies through a typical emergency 911 call and what dispatchers need to know, for example, in a situation where a company employee falls ill. This was helpful information as sometimes it is a receptionist calling in an emergency instead of an employee on the immediate scene. Chief Grunes concluded the meeting noting that it was important to build a partnership with businesses to make sure the Bedford’s emergency personnel could be as responsive and effective as possible during an emergency situation.

After the meeting, Chris Conway, Director of Facilities at Anika Therapeutics, said that it was particularly helpful to hear about real world examples of what could go wrong and how those things might be prevented in the future.

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