The owner of a prominent downtown Ansonia property said a city official “lied” about what prompted an a federal environmental cleanup there.
At an Aldermen’s meeting last month and in interviews with the Valley Indy, Sheila O’Malley, the city’s grants writer and economic development director, said toxic chemicals had been “dumped” into the ground at the the 40-acre former site of the Ansonia Copper & Brass Company downtown.
The owner, Ray McGee, said O’Malley’s comments are “absolutely, totally, completely false.”
He said the ongoing cleanup is happening because the property was in heavy industrial use for more than a century as a metal foundry.
Environmental cleanups happen all the time at such properties, he said — not because of any specific “dumping.”
“There were no chemicals thrown on the ground,” McGee said. “It’s an absolute lie.”
An EPA official previously told The Valley Indy there is no “immediate concerns about people’s exposure to site contamination.”
So far, hazardous substances identified there “include, but are not limited to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), heavy metals, corrosive wastes, friable asbestos and friable asbestos containing materials.” That’s not unusual for an old industrial property in the Naugatuck Valley.
O’Malley said she was not implying that McGee or anyone connected to him dumped toxins on the property.
According to her description, there were metal bins on the property, which someone may have tried to steal after emptying the contents. O’Malley said she was referring specifically to the bins when she made her comments.
“I’m only saying what the response people said when they got onsite, which was it looked like there were chemicals in metal bins and because they were trying to get the metal from the containers, they dumped the chemicals,” she said.
Someone probably wanted the containers for their scrap metal value, she said.
“No one said Ray McGee dumped those bins onto the ground,” O’Malley said.
Still, she said whoever was responsible acted carelessly, if not deliberately.
McGee reached out to the Valley Indy March 12 in response to a story published March 8 about the cleanup effort at his property. The Valley Indy had left him a message seeking comment prior to publishing the article.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency said they were referred to the site in May by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
The state environmental officials had been called in by an environmental consultant working for the city to assess contamination at the property.
The cleanup has cost about $960,000 so far and will likely continue until this summer. The EPA filed liens against the property last year to eventually recoup the cost.
McGee said he had immediately granted permission to state and federal environmental officials to inspect the property last year.
There is no danger to neighbors or passersby, he said.
“All the buildings have been locked up tight and all of the fencing and gates have been chained and locked to prevent anyone except authorized access to the site.”
He said the state called in the EPA “not because of any (dumping) on site, but because the federal government has more funds available should any work be required.”
“There was never anything dumped on the ground,” McGee said. “There was never a threat of anything going into the river.”
“I really am insulted by these kinds of remarks,” he said.
O’Malley stood by her earlier comments.
“The contaminants were in the container, according to what I’ve been told,” she said. “Somehow they got onto the ground. The person who talked to me indicated they were dumped onto the ground.”
The relationship between McGee and the city has deteriorated after showing some initial promise in the months after Mayor David Cassetti was first elected in late 2013.
In August 2014 Cassetti announced a deal with the company in August 2014 whereby they’d be allowed to deduct costs of demolition and environmental remediation from their debts to the city.
The company owes the city at least $800,000 in back taxes and sewer fees.
But then more than two years passed without anything happening there.
City officials declared the tax-demo deal dead last April and are now working on acquiring the property via a tax auction.
McGee said his efforts to communicate with city officials have fallen on deaf ears.
“I have gone to the city with multiple plans for redevelopment and sought their aid,” he said.
He said he couldn’t explain the city’s actions.
“I don’t know what their motivations are,” he said. “They don’t include me in their conversations.”
O’Malley first mentioned the cleanup in public during an Aldermen’s meeting last month after a question from First Ward Alderman Charles Stowe.
Click play on the video below to watch the Aldermen’s meeting where the topic was discussed.