State environmental officials put a halt earlier this fall to the removal of a pile of demolition debris at the site of a historic house destroyed by a massive fire.
Officials with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection were alerted to the possible presence of asbestos at the Sandwich Road site.
DEP spokesman Edward J. Coletta said that the agency was alerted to the demolition project and the possibility of materials being contaminated by asbestos. The department tested the remains of the nearly two centuries-old structure, and did, in fact, discover asbestos, Mr. Coletta said.
It was also learned, he said, that no plan was in place for the disposal of asbestos-contaminated items. Disposal, he said, must be done by a company that has been licensed by the state to deal with asbestos materials.
“You can’t separate asbestos from other debris,” he said, “so you have to assume all [the] material to be contaminated. They had to come up with a work plan for disposal of the contaminated material.”
Mr. Coletta said that formulating the plan and getting it approved by DEP held up removal efforts. He said that DEP signed off on the disposal plan last Thursday, November 14. He added that DEP is confident there was no removal of any contaminated materials from the site prior to DEP’s testing for asbestos and approval of the disposal plan.
The debris pile has been sitting at the site for more than a month, and has caught the attention of town officials and residents alike. Questions have been raised as to why the site has not been thoroughly cleared of the debris six months after the fire was extinguished.
Residents who reached out to the Enterprise said that work at the site had been ongoing up until a month ago. In response to an email query from another resident, Bourne Board of Selectmen chairman Judith M. Froman wrote Assistant Town Administrator Glenn D. Cannon on October 17, asking about the debris pile. Mr. Cannon replied that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has control of the site.
“We have been in contact with DEP and they are controlling the site activities,” Mr. Cannon replied.
Jared B. Chagnon is the property manager for the W. Clark Trust in Falmouth, owners of 1 Sandwich Road, where the house had stood. Mr. Chagnon confirmed that demolition was held up while testing was done for the presence of asbestos. He said that, at first, the Town of Bourne did not require that kind of testing, but later the town recanted and said the testing would be necessary.
“It was a long few weeks of approvals to be sure we can continue with removal,” he said.
Demolition of the building was awarded to RebuildEx, a residential and commercial property repair company out of Carver. Town records show that the company was issued a demolition permit dated June 19.
Mr. Chagnon said that his company is ready to move forward with plans to replace the building as soon as the debris pile has been fully removed.
“As soon as they remove the debris pile, we’ll be cutting a new foundation,” he said. “We’re ready to go.”
Mr. Chagnon said it was his understanding that the remaining pile would be removed as of November 20 or November 21.
Flames broke out inside the 194-year-old building just after 8 PM on May 28.
Two Bourne police officers were the first on the scene. The two went in and helped evacuate a number of residents before being overcome by heavy smoke. Both were treated at the scene by Bourne firefighters.
Twelve people were living in the building at the time of the fire, although two were away on business.
All the residents who were at home when the fire broke out were evacuated safely. Two people were rescued by climbing down fire truck ladders.
One of the building’s occupants, a 65-year-old man, was taken to Tobey Hospital in Wareham, where he, too, was treated for smoke inhalation and subsequently released.
No one else was injured by the blaze.
Town assessor records placed the value of the building, which measured 5,012 square feet, at $533,400.
An investigation by the State Fire Marshal’s office and the Bourne Fire Department determined that the fire began in the confined space between the ceiling and Unit 3 on the second floor. It quickly spread to the attic and resulted in a major collapse of the structure’s roof.
State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey and Bourne Fire Chief Norman P. Sylvester said the cause of the fire was “an unspecified electrical failure.” The investigation also indicated no evidence of arson.
Mr. Chagnon said the W. Clark Trust owns 15 apartment buildings in Falmouth and Bourne. In the immediate aftermath of the fire, he said, there were no vacancies in any of the other buildings to accommodate the fire victims. Since then, he said, vacancies became available that allowed the trust to accommodate two of the renters who were left homeless by the May fire.