The state Department of Environmental Protection is scheduled to meet with residents of Weymouth Friday to discuss their concerns over contamination from the site where a natural gas compressor station is being built.

The issue led one opponent — Boston University professor Nathan Phillips — to go on a hunger strike.

Phillips showed up earlier this week at the state DEP office in Downtown Crossing, asking to speak with Commissioner Martin Suuberg. The receptionist asked him if he had an appointment.

“No," he replied. "I'd like to talk with him about his actions to correct the public health emergency in the Fore River basin, which he is aware of.”

Suuberg was not available to meet with him.

Phillips and other opponents lost when they challenged the compressor station's construction along the Fore River in Weymouth in court. Now, the project is underway and Phillips is staging a hunger strike to protest what he says are the dangerously inadequate protections in place as workers attempt to decontaminate the site.

Activist and BU professor Nathan Phillips at the Massachusetts DEP office on Feb. 4, 2020.
Craig LeMoult WGBH News

He seems surprisingly energetic for someone who has not eaten anything since last Wednesday.

“I take hot tea, unsweetened tea,” he said. “I take a multivitamin every day and some sea salt, and I've realized that a little sea salt in tea is actually a very satisfying broth type of thing.”

Phillips said he did not want to go on a hunger strike, but he saw no other option. He and others have already been arrested for protesting the station.

He told WGBH News he needed to get attention for what he says is a project that’s being improperly done.

“Within the last two weeks, dump trucks laden with arsenic and asbestos, laden with coal ash, have been departing the site without proper decontamination," he said. "And we have photographic and video evidence of residue of block billowing off the back of trucks.”

As an excavator on the Weymouth site dug a hole and moved dirt into a pile on Thursday, Weymouth resident and activist Lisa Jennings looked down on it from the Fore River Bridge and contemplated the project's environmental impact.

“They basically tore up about three feet of soil off like the total layer — the trees, all the brush and everything that was on this entire space, except for the very, very tiny corner in the back,” Jennings, a member of the group Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS), said. “You can kind of see where the level was.”

An old coal plant that used to be just on the other side of the bridge contaminated the site with ash. There are also bricks from the plant buried there, which Enbridge — the company behind the compressor project — said tested negative for asbestos. But, opponents say they didn’t dig deep enough when testing and that older bricks deeper down almost certainly contain asbestos.

“They're scooping it all up. They're putting it into these trucks,” Jennings said. “They're not washing the wheels of these trucks. They're not doing any of the things that were in the plan that said this is what we're going to do to take this material safely off site and transport it somewhere else.”

Enbridge did not make anyone available for an interview. But, in an email to WGBH News, a spokesperson said that workers are following proper procedures, with public health and safety being the top priority as trucks remove soil from the site.

“Trucks are inspected before leaving the site to ensure that regulated soils are not tracked off-property,” spokesman Max Bergeron said in the email. “The paved road leading to the Compressor Station site is swept on a regular basis as an added measure to ensure no tracking of regulated soil onto local roadways.”

The hunger-striking Phillips said he has three demands: He wants to see more efforts made to decontaminate trucks leaving the site. He wants more testing of the buried materials. And he wants the state Department of Environmental Protection to establish an air monitoring station nearby to gather data on possible contaminants.

The DEP announced last week they plan on doing exactly that.

“As proposed, the air monitoring station will monitor nitrogen dioxide, fine particulate matter (PM2.5), ozone, and volatile organic compounds, consistent with EPA monitoring regulations and guidance,” the DEP wrote to local and state officials and stakeholders last week. “The station will also measure meteorological parameters including, but not limited to temperature, and wind speed and direction. MassDEP continues its evaluation of several potential locations for siting the monitoring station and has narrowed down the number of sites for this permanent station and will be working with City of Weymouth on finalizing an appropriate site.”

Until that station is finalized, the DEP has pledged to establish a temporary monitoring station at the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) pump station location nearby “as expeditiously as possible.”

And the DEP has scheduled a meeting for later Friday with the compressor station’s opponents to answer their questions.

In the meantime, Nathan Phillips won’t eat any breakfast Friday. What happens at that meeting may determine whether he has dinner.