Topics of Potential Concern to Bedford in Massport’s Recently Released 2017 Environmental Status and Planning Report (ESPR) for Hanscom Field

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Compiled by The Bedford Citizen

Several topics of potential concern to Bedford emerged during three public meetings held to publicize Massport’s Five-Year Environmental Status and Planning Report (ESPR) to local communities on June 4, 6, and 11 at the Hanscom  Civil Air Terminal.

The issues include

  • The uncertain fate of the Hanscom Air Force Base FamCamp on the Northeast Airfield after their lease expires in 2027
  • The omission of any actual Bedford air samples from Massport’s estimation of air quality in neighborhoods near the airfield
  • The less rigorous Massport monitoring of stormwater discharges from Hanscom Field into the Shawsheen River and Elm Brook, as compared to its monitoring of stormwater discharges off Logan airfield into Boston Harbor
  • The omission of all Massport project construction vehicle traffic data from the study of Hanscom Field traffic impacts on Bedford neighborhoods
  • The omission of all aircraft ground noise data from the environmental assessment of potential impacts of Massport’s proposed North Airfield corporate and T-hangar facility developments to nearby Hartwell Road neighborhoods.

Hanscom Air Force Base Family Campground (FamCamp) Fate Uncertain

The Air Force lease for the FamCamp and surrounding land will expire in 2027.  This land, designated as “Parcel B” in the ESPR, is located on Massport property just off South Road along the perimeter of the Northeast  Airfield. It includes a recreational site with a campground for active and retired military personnel and their families.  The wooded area has space for tents and recreational vehicles, a pavilion, and laundry facilities.  Click here to learn more about HAFB FamCamp:  https://www.hanscomfss.com/outdoor-recreation .

Deputy Director of Massport Environmental Planning and Permitting Stewart Dalzell announced at the first two meetings that Massport has no current plans for the FamCamp land after 2027, but that could change in the future.  At the final meeting, he added, “Again, we don’t have any plans, and so we have nothing to share with you. I can’t say whether we would keep it. Sell it. Not take it. Or they could extend it. I mean, there’s a million different options.”

Amber Goodspeed,  Manager of Airport Administration at Hanscom, stated, “We just want to disclose the fact that it is our property.  It is reverting back to us in 2027.”   She added, “So we’re already paving the way to make sure that you’re aware well in advance of anything potentially being planned.”  Goodspeed had explained at one of the earlier meetings, “Based on our following FAA regulations, we would not run something that was not aviation compatible.”  When asked if she considered the present FamCamp to be aviation compatible, Goodspeed simply replied, “No.”

From the ESPR document, Page 4-33: “U.S. Air Force Parcel B, located adjacent to Taxiway G, should be preserved for future aviation or aviation compatible use in the 2035 planning scenario.  Massport owns this property and leases it to the USAF.  The lease is expected to expire in 2027.  Landside access would be provided from South Road and airfield access would be provided from Taxiway G.  This site is isolated from the other developments on the airport and would also require clearing of the FamCamp RV campsite.”

Air Quality Model for Bedford Omits Bedford Air Samples

The good news:  HMMH Project Manager Katherine Preston stated, “Air quality in the region currently meets all the national and Massachusetts state ambient air quality standards.  The future emissions are also expected to remain under those regulatory thresholds as well.”

The bad news:  Residents were surprised to learn that Massport bases its estimate of air quality in Bedford neighborhoods on air samples collected in Chelmsford and Kenmore Square, not in Bedford.

Only Periodic Visual Inspection of Airfield Stormwater Discharges into Shawsheen River and Elm Brook

Dalzell was questioned about the ESPR description of Massport monitoring of stormwater discharges from Hanscom Field into the Shawsheen River and Elm Brook (a tributary to the Shawsheen) only by periodic visual checks.  This is in marked contrast to the much more rigorous battery of laboratory analyses for numerous airport-associated contaminants which is required for Logan’s stormwater discharges into Boston Harbor.

He explained that the monitoring requirements (or lack of) were set by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

It was pointed out to Massport representatives and consultants that the Shawsheen River passes in very close proximity to the Shawsheen Municipal Wellfield, which is the source of up to 15% of Bedford’s drinking water, and that the river itself is a drinking water source for at least one community further downstream, in sharp contrast to Boston Harbor, which is not a drinking water source for any community.

Massport Project Construction Traffic Impacts on Bedford Not Included in ESPR Traffic Studies

In answer to a question about Massport infrastructure projects on the North Airfield that will generate heavy construction traffic through Hartwell Road neighborhoods, HMMH consultant Katherine Preston acknowledged that such traffic data is not included in estimates of environmental effects on Bedford.  She and Massport’s Dalzell both explained that since the construction traffic is considered to have temporary rather than permanent impacts on neighborhoods, it is never included in Massport environmental assessments.

Aircraft Ground Noise Data Omitted from Study of Environmental Impacts on Hartwell Road Neighborhoods of Proposed North Airfield Corporate and T-hangar Facilities

Massport noise consultant Brad Nicholas of HMMH revealed that the study of potential noise impacts of the proposed new North Airfield corporate and T-hangar facilities to the nearby Hartwell Road neighborhoods omits noise data from common aircraft ground operations occurring near hangar complexes.   This type of ground noise comes from planes taxiing to and from hangars; aircraft engines idling while awaiting departure; auxiliary power units (generators) running heating and cooling systems for parked aircraft; engine testing, maintenance, and repair; and helicopter landings and take-offs in close proximity to the hangars.

When this discussion was drowned out several times by aircraft ground noise coming from hangars near the Civil Terminal, Lexington HFAC member Margaret Coppe commented wryly to the gathering, “Too much noise.”

About the Recently Released 2017 ESPR

The 560-page ESPR describes current Hanscom Field airport facilities, infrastructure, and activity levels; forecasts likely development scenarios; and predicts environmental impacts on surrounding communities to the year 2035 in the areas of air and water quality; noise levels; traffic; and natural, historical and cultural resources.   The document and its appendices can be viewed online:   https://www.massport.com/massport/about-massport/project-environmental-filings/hanscom-field/ . Paper copies are also available in the Bedford, Lexington, Concord, and Lincoln public libraries.

Three public meetings were held in early June 2019 at Hanscom Field’s Civil Air Terminal. The first two meetings covered details of individual chapters of the  ESPR report, while the final meeting summarized key findings of the environmental report.

The last meeting was attended by Alexander Strysky, representing the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Office, a division of the State Executive Office of the Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs.  The MEPA Office is responsible for reviewing the ESPR to certify it honors requirements for full public disclosure and does not violate environmental “anti-segmentation” provisions for large complex projects.

Reminder:  Public comments on environmental issues in the ESPR document, or which were raised during the three public meetings should be sent to the MEPA Office by July 11, addressed to Alexander Strysky, at  alexander.strysky@mass.gov. Please reference 2017 ESPR – Massport/HANSCOM ~  EEA No. 5484/8696 in the subject line of your email.