Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

News

November 7, 2013

Water sludge battle flows on

Judge urges Berberian, town to settle

Locked in a costly, drawn-out legal battle with the town, Bancroft Road resident James Berberian took his case directly to his adversaries Monday night, asking members of the Board of Selectmen for face-to-face meetings without lawyers as a way to settle his lawsuit.

Berberian, of 2-4 Bancroft Road, held up a packet of documents, quoting from them extensively throughout his 15-minute presentation.

“I’ve invited selectmen to meet me without counsel to review these,” he said, waving the documents in the air. “If you had seen these, you wouldn’t have let this continue one more day.”

Berberian sued the town in federal court in February 2012 alleging that public works employees dumped water tainted with arsenic and other toxic metals into wetlands on his property in November 2010.

The town and Berberian attempted to settle the case in nonbinding mediation earlier this year and even came close to an agreement, only to see it fail at the last minute.

The case is back in federal court. During a hearing last week, Magistrate Judge Robert B. Collings urged attorneys for both sides to attempt to reach a settlement, according to documents in the case.

Monday night, in response to Berberian, selectmen Chairman Alex Vispoli read a three-page statement, with attachments, saying board members were limited in what they could say about the case because it was pending litigation.

But, he said, the town has attempted to settle “because of extensive legal fees and consultant fees being incurred by all of the parties in the litigation.”

Vispoli also said the town had offered to make Berberian a settlement payment of $440,000, without admitting wrongdoing, but that the deal failed when Berberian couldn’t reach a financial settlement with an engineer working for the town on the site.

Finally, the town said it would be filing a report with the Department of Environmental Protection this week, which would include a human health risk assessment of the site.

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