SALEM — Overlook Acres LLC, a development team that recently withdrew its plans to build a development off of Highland Avenue, has filed a lawsuit against the owners of the property it planned to develop, alleging that they failed to disclose information about significant contamination on the site.
The lawsuit alleges that defendants Kathleen and Stephen Ingemi initiated the sale of the site without disclosing that, due to the area’s previous use as a dumping site for cars, it contained levels of contamination that present “significant and imminent risk of harm to the public and the environment.”
The plaintiff alleges that Kathleen Ingemi stated in 2019 that she had “no knowledge of any contamination or hazardous materials in/about the premises.”
After Overlook Acres had invested nearly $1 million associated with seeking out and acquiring permits for construction of their planned 324-unit development, the contamination came to light through soil boring samples conducted on the site.
Those samples revealed high levels of several chemicals, including polychlorinated biphenyls (commonly known as PCBs) and volatile organic compounds.
The remediation of the land required to move the project forward was estimated to cost between $12 million to $34 million,” a price tag that the lawsuit claims influenced Overlook Acres’ decision to terminate its plans for the development.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants, since they had lived on the premises for numerous years, should have known that the site had been utilized as an automobile dumping ground and informed the developers of that fact.
Overlook Acres declined to comment on the situation, and the defendants could not be reached.
The revelation of contamination has led to concern among Salem residents, including Steve Kapantis, a member of the Not For Sale.m Coalition, a community group that has long been skeptical of developing the land.
“My first thought reading that lawsuit was that we have a site that could be damaging to our environment,” said Kapantis, who initially posted the court documents online. “Imminent harm to the public and the environment is a pretty serious claim.”
Kapantis said he had first heard about potential contamination on the site from a neighbor and longtime resident of the neighborhood at an August meeting and has been following the situation closely since then.
Alvi Ibanez, an abutter to the site and member of Not For Sale.m, was troubled by the discovery of contaminated soil on the site.
“I am concerned,” said Ibanez. “I have a family here. That’s what has driven me to find out what is happening here.”
He hopes for further communication from the city regarding the alleged contamination.
“What I want, and what the neighbors want, is a statement from the city stating that there is contamination,” said Ibanez, “And if that level of contamination is harmful, or if we have nothing to worry about.”
Guthrie Scrimgeour can be reached at [email protected].