Boston Professor Goes on Hunger Strike over Construction of Compressor Station
*update. Nathan Phillips ended his hunger strike on Feb. 12 at the recommendation of his doctor.
A Boston University earth and environment professor was 10 days into a hunger strike on Feb. 7 to protest a planned compressor station for a natural gas pipeline in North Weymouth, Mass. and raise awareness about what he claims are “serious public health and safety violations” at the construction site.
Algonquin Gas Transmission began construction site activities on a hazardous waste site in early December for the controversial 7,700-hp Weymouth Compressor Station that will serve the $452-million Atlantic bridge pipeline project extending from New England to Canada. It will be in service in the second half of 2020, according to Enbridge, the energy company that owns the pipeline.
Nathan Phillips, who teaches at the College of Arts & Sciences, has three demands for ending his hunger strike—that all the dump trucks leaving the site are properly decontaminated; that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection test for asbestos in the bricks and coal layers in the foundation of the land where the compressor is under construction; and Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration must commit to installing and operating an air quality monitor, according to a Feb. 5 issue of The Brink, a Boston University research publication.
A temporary air monitoring station was installed in the Fore River area Jan. 31.
Phillips told WBUR that the contractor should have a decontamination station, decontamination pads and a procedure for removing coal ash residue before the trucks leave the site.
An Enbridge spokesman says it is proceeding with construction activities with public health and safety as its priority, and in compliance with the Release Abatement Measure (RAM) Plan and applicable regulations.
He added that “we are following the proper procedures for trucks removing soil” from the site, consistent with the Enbridge RAM plan. “Trucks are inspected before leaving the site to ensure that regulated soils are not tracked off-property. The paved road leading to the compressor station site is swept on a regular basis as an added measure to ensure no tracking of regulated soil onto local roadways.”
In addition, the spokesman says “a qualified inspector collected brick samples at representative locations across the work area where potentially asbestos containing material was observed during investigations at the Weymouth Compressor Station site. The brick samples were analyzed by an accredited laboratory, and no asbestos was detected.”
Meanwhile a spokesperson for the Massachusetts DEP says it is “committed to ensuring that activities at the site of a compressor station in Weymouth meet all state environmental requirements. MassDEP has installed a temporary air monitoring station in the Fore River area, which is now gathering data while work continues at the site to install a permanent station, and the department continues to provide oversight of the assessment and cleanup activities.”
Phillips did not respond to an ENR email inquiry in time for publication.