Letters to the Editor

Letter to The Editor – The Effects of Burlington’s Industrialization

The following is a letter to the Editor:

You know you’re from Burlington if you don’t drink the water.
Burlington has always had a voracious appetite for growth and the resultant increase in tax revenue. There are four basic reasons for this. The residential taxpayers like low taxes and full services, it’s easier for town leaders to run the government with lots of money and the school department can add more administration positions despite declining enrollments.

All of this of course was made possible by the construction of Route 128 in the middle fifties. With Burlington now situated perfectly at the junction of 128 and Route 3, the gateway to the northern kingdoms, Burlington was primed to cash in. And cash in we did as town leaders began in earnest the industrialization of the town. Soon such companies as High Voltage, RCA, Transonics, US Windpower, Altotronics, Techweld, and others were located here.

It wasn’t until the middle and late seventies with the construction of Mall Road that Burlington began the transition into high-class office and retail users. New England Executive Park, Burlington Mall, the Marriot, and R.J Kelly led the way. However, it was too late.
In 1980 it became apparent that Burlington’s industrialization would lead to the poisoning of the Great Meadow and the town’s main well field. The town responded with treatment efforts that sustained water production but with the findings of PFAS and Dioxane concentrations the well fields are now useless. Of course, the companies involved in early industrialization were responsible.

This leads me to the main point of this rant. The town is now in the midst of another major transition in pursuit of full buildings. There are two basic reasons for this happening. Covid 19 has proven that many businesses can reduce office space and gain productivity by having people work from home and spend less time and stress commuting. Second, Amazon and other online retailers have severely damaged the need for retail bricks and mortar.

The town is pursuing two major solutions. One is the construction of high-density housing and the other is a headlong rush in the pursuit of lab space and research companies. (as are other communities). It is item two which concerns me the most. A recent senate report published in the Washington Post suggests that the most likely source of the virus was a research-related incident at a lab in Wuhan China.

I have discussed this with people I respect who say Burlington should not be worried about the possibility of air-born-related accidents because there are so many agencies responsible for regulating these activities.

My reply is twofold, commercial activity is always way ahead of government. If the regulators were leaders in their fields they would be working for the profit makers. Secondly, the very definition of research is “the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.”Remember, Viagra was developed as a treatment for angina and high blood pressure. This of course is an absurd example but you catch my drift.

Burlington needs to be extraordinarily vigilant in the new transition process so we don’t repeat mistakes we’ve made in the past.

Phillip Gallagher
8 Corcoran Road