Neighbors fear damage from blasting at former Polaroid site

Blasting at the former Polaroid property in Waltham has triggered a series of complaints from neighbors who say some of the explosions are big enough to rattle their homes.

Crews at the redevelopment project along Route 128 are using explosives to remove rocks in preparation for relocating the power lines that crisscross the property, according to developer Sam Park. The 280,000-square-foot first phase, slated to start construction next spring, will feature a mix of retail and offices.

“Typically they blast twice a day,” said Thomas Emberley, a retired electronics worker who lives on Prospect Hill Road. “You sit there at your kitchen table and your body kind of jumps up and down.”

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While blasting at construction sites is not unusual, development in Waltham crawled to a stop during the recession and is just now getting underway again, said Lieutenant Scott Perry of the Waltham Fire Department.

Blasting started at the former Polaroid site in the spring and is slated to continue into October, he said.

There have been seven formal complaints filed by Waltham residents reporting blast damage related to the project, Perry said. And the Fire Department has received a steady stream of calls — averaging two a day — about the explosions, he said.

“We are fielding a ton of calls from folks who want information on what is going on,” he said.

Waltham fire officials say all of the blasts have been well within state-regulated limits, with fire personnel stationed nearby to monitor the work.

The state fire marshal’s office has investigated the complaints and found no evidence that the damage being reported by neighbors of the construction site was due to the blasting taking place, according to Jennifer Mieth, a spokeswoman for the agency.

But residents who filed the complaints insist odd things have happened to their homes since the blasting began.

Emberley said the blasting cracked his foundation, letting water into the basement of the Colonial he has owned since 1964. He said he hasn’t had water there in at least a decade.

He has managed to get on a Fire Department call list that allows him to be notified a half-hour ahead of each blast, Emberley said.

Richard Kokidko, a retired Waltham water and sewer worker who owns an old Victorian on the same street, has also complained of cracks in his home’s foundation and water in its basement. He said that a blast knocked down a tile in his kitchen.

While he is also more than a mile from the blasting, Kokidko theorizes there must be some sort of fault line or connection in the rocky landscape between the Polaroid property and his house.

There are no other houses between his home and the construction site, just a city park, Kokidko said.

“They blast every day three times, and one time it really shakes the house,” he said.

Park, chief executive of Boston-based Sam Park & Co., said he empathizes with neighbors in the vicinity of the blasts,  but said everything is being done by the book.

“I can understand when you hear blasting, it can be louder than one might expect,” the developer said. “But they have been monitoring the ground. The vibrations are well below any regulations for blasting.”

Despite his issues with the blasting, Emberley said, he remains a fan of Park’s redevelopment plans.

“I think the project is going to be good for the city,” he said. “But if my house is hurt, I would like to be compensated for it.”