Report: City Receives Subpoenas in Fall River Mill Investigation
The Massachusetts Attorney General has reportedly issued subpoenas to Fall River city departments, including the mayor's office, and a grand jury is said to be investigating the redevelopment of the former King Philip Mill.
Ten city departments and various engineering and environmental firms were ordered to provide records to a state grand jury regarding the sprawling property at 386 Kilburn Street, according to documents procured by the Fall River Herald News.
Mayor Paul Coogan, who took office in January, acknowledged the receipt of the subpoenas and told the newspaper the city "will be cooperating 100%." The office of Attorney General Maura Healey declined to confirm or deny the grand jury investigation.
Developer Robert Kfoury, owner of RK Construction and RGK Realty Trust, bought the mill in January 2018 at tax title auction. He has been clearing the site and plans 100 apartments and 26 single-family homes.
Last week a state Environmental Crime Strike Task Force executed two-day search at the property, with backhoes digging up dirt, workers sifting through debris and bagging what appeared to be evidence, and armed guards protecting the site overnight, the Herald News reported.
The strike force has reportedly been investigating the site since at least November, when the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection halted demolition due to the discovery of asbestos. After certain steps were taken to stabilize the site, Kfoury was given permission to resume trucking materials off-site.
The property is a former industrial site that included textile manufacturing, auto repair, iron works, mill works, and a laundromat and linen service, according to the DEP.
On June 7, 2018, Khoury, as new owner of the property, was deemed the "responsible party" for the cleanup and ordered by the DEP to hire a licensed site professional, or "LSP," to supervise the cleanup. Khoury retained the Pawtucket-based Sage Environmental, records show.
An updated Phase I report submitted by Sage Environmental to the Bureau of Waste Site Cleanup on June 3, 2019 shows soil at the site contains various petroleum hydrocarbons, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and volatile petroleum hydrocarbons. In 2016, an investigation conducted by BETA Environmental for the City of Fall River under former mayor Jasiel Correia (pdf) outlined the site's environmental history and identified similar soil and groundwater contamination.
According to the state law known as 21E, the owner of a contaminated property is generally deemed responsible for site cleanup, regardless of who is at fault for the original pollution. The responsible party must carry out any cleanup according to a set of strict regulations.