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Officials Continuing to Investigate Upton Railroad Chemical Spill

The Upton Board of Selectmen briefly discussed last month's chemical spill which took place at the Grafton Upton Railroad. The railroad dialogue took place during a January 6 meeting.

During the afternoon of December 18, approximately 100 gallons of styrene spilled at the Maple St. site when a defective valve was utilized to transfer the chemical. Styrene is regarded as a hazardous chemical.

The railroad brought in a company called Clean Harbors to clean up the spill and the Department of Environmental Protection was also on hand. Town Manager Blythe Robinson said the DEP will have an additional meeting with railroad officials to review the incident again and to make certain everyone is up to speed on handling these situations.

Town officials will also ask for a separate meeting with railroad personnel. "We've got some things we want to discuss with them on being prepared in the future and I think they're going to be open to that," said Robinson to the Board.

Selectman Robert Fleming wanted to make certain residents understood that it was the town's Public Safety Departments who were first on the scene and noted their prior emergency training for such an event had paid off.

In other news that evening, the Board met with the Cemetery Commission to once again discuss the Commission's jurisdiction in overseeing the town's cemeteries.

There have been several discussions between the Selectmen and Commission regarding the maintenance of the cemeteries since it was discovered that an act approved in 1989 by the state established a Department of Public Works in Upton; part of that act eliminated the Cemetery Commission and transferred all authority concerning the town's cemeteries to the DPW. However, since that act was adopted, the Cemetery Commission has continued to oversee Lakeview Cemetery and to some extent Pine Grove Cemetery.

The discrepancy was brought to the Board's attention nearly a year ago and continues to be a topic of conversation. During the January 6 meeting, a draft document prepared by Robinson was discussed concerning the new roles and responsibilities of the Cemetery Commissioners and the DPW with regard to the management of the town's cemeteries.

The document stated the Commission would be responsible for determining the eligibility of those wishing to purchase plots in Upton, determine rates to be charged for burial, show perspective lots for sale, oversee the records of lot sales and locations of each grave, coordinate scheduling of funerals, among several other responsibilities. The DPW would be responsible for the maintenance of the cemeteries including their landscape, roads, signage, and flags.

"My only issue is to be sure we're in compliance with Mass. Law," said Selectman Robert Fleming. "This action here clearly defines everyone's role, but we're being open and saying we want input."

Cemetery Commission Chair Leo Lamanuzzi stated that a section of the act says all persons affected by its adoption, including the Commissioners, will be transferred to the DPW without loss of pay or seniority. Lamanuzzi asked for clarification on that wording.

Selectman Ken Picard stated that condition may have referred to workers back in 1989. However, the Board decided to seek out Town Counsel for clarification.


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