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Cashman Dredging official vows transparency in pursuit of Gales Ferry project

Posted on July 12, 2022

A corporate official said Friday that Cashman Dredging and Marine Contracting is “trying to be as transparent as possible” as it pursues a plan to redevelop the former Dow Chemical property in Gales Ferry.

“We don’t have anything to hide,” said Alan Perrault, vice president of Jay Cashman Inc., the dredging firm’s corporate parent. “If there is a concern, how can we mitigate it?”

Perrault said the company will make a presentation at a public informational meeting at 6:30 p.m. July 18 at Ledyard Middle School. The meeting, required as part of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s review of the proposal, originally had been set for June 15 but was postponed when the turnout exceeded Bill Library’s capacity.

On Wednesday, about 150 people, many of whom raised questions about the proposal, showed up at a community meeting at the middle school organized by the Gales Ferry District.

Perrault, who spoke from Cashman’s corporate headquarters in Quincy, Mass., on a conference call with a reporter and Cashman Dredging’s local attorney, Harry Heller of Heller, Heller & McCoy in Uncasville, said the company expects to roll out a website dedicated to the proposal by next Friday. He said the company is emailing notice of both the informational meeting and the website’s debut to all residents who provided an address prior to the June meeting’s postponement.

Cashman Dredging’s only contact with town officials came in an informal discussion with the Planning and Zoning Commission in November. It has yet to file an application for zoning or site-plan approval.

“Probably in the next couple of weeks,” Perrault said when asked when an application would be submitted.

“I’ve done this before,” said Perrault, who’s been with Cashman since 1984. “We’ve done four or five of these redevelopments, some at brownfield sites. … You do your due diligence first, then you buy the property, then you do the permitting.”

Gales Ferry Intermodal, the entity formed to pursue the project, purchased the redevelopment site, a total of 165 acres, in May. A tenant, Americas Styrenics, continues to operate there.

Perrault said it was Americas Styrenics’ operation that attracted Cashman Dredging to the site. He said the polystyrene manufacturer brings in materials by tanker via the Thames River and rail that runs through the site and sends products out by truck and train. Similarly, Cashman Dredging would process dredged material that arrives by barge or scow on the Thames River, process it and deliver the finished product by truck or rail to off-site destinations.

The Gales Ferry location is equidistant from Cashman Dredging facilities in Quincy, Mass., and Staten Island, N.Y., and provides a strategic location from which the company can support the offshore wind industry, Perrault said.

The proposed dredge-processing operation would take up only about 10 acres of the Gales Ferry site. With Americas Styrenics using about 23 acres, according to Perrault, well over 100 acres would be available for other tenants.

“Our plans are to attract warehousing, manufacturing and distribution,” he said. “Anyone coming here, it’s because it’s multi-modal — truck access, water access, rail access.”

Heller, responding to concerns voiced by residents Wednesday, said the traffic the Gales Ferry Intermodal operation would generate “has been grossly mischaracterized.” Residents, drawing on the developer’s own data, have calculated that 500 truck trips a day to and from the site would be the norm during peak periods of around-the-clock operations.

But Perrault said dredging in New England waterways is only allowed from October to February because of environmental considerations.

“It wouldn’t be a 12-month operation, and it’s not typically 24/7,” he said. “… I don’t see any scenario where there would be hundreds of truck passings in a day.”

According to Perrault, dredged material processed at Gales Ferry Intermodal could come from State Pier in New London, where a staging area for offshore wind components is being built; the Electric Boat shipyard in Groton; Cross Sound Ferry facilities in New London and Orient, N.Y.; the Naval Submarine Base in Groton and marinas along the southeastern Connecticut shoreline as well as other locations.

For the most part, Perrault said, processed dredged material would be trucked from the site to landfills no more than two hours away. The processing, which involves “dewatering” and stabilizing the material by mixing it with cement, mostly would take place on the barges before the material is offloaded. Anything hazardous in the dredged material would be shipped by rail to a disposal facility out of state. For example, he said, when carcinogenic PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were found in material Cashman Dredging took from the Hudson River, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency oversaw the material’s removal to a landfill in Texas.

Piles of processed dredged material could be stored on site for three to four months, covered by heavy, black, tarpaulin-like material, Perrault said.

He said no processing of dredged material on land would occur within 1,000 feet of a residence. And, with the grade of the site 35 feet lower than Route 12, the operation would be shielded from view, he said.

Perrault also addressed a question about smells that might emanate from the site, saying dredged material from such locations as State Pier and EB are devoid of shellfish, which he said are the source of most dredged material odors.

“It should not be much of a concern,” he said.


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