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Release Date: 07/13/2000
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, EPA Community Affairs Office, (617) 918-1064

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that five Superfund sites in Massachusetts are in line to receive nearly $500,000 in federal grants to help the community plan for the productive use of a toxic waste site. Those expected to receive EPA planning grants are in Lowell, New Bedford, Pittsfield, Walpole, and Woburn.

"Across New England, we are demonstrating that through ingenuity and common sense we can expand the economy while cleaning and preserving our natural resources," said Mindy Lubber, regional administrator for EPA New England. "The redevelopment initiative is an aggressive planning tool that encourages communities to decide on the future use of abandoned and contaminated properties."

"I am pleased that the EPA has recognized the impressive progress made by these five communities in cleaning up their toxic waste sites and restoring them for job creating and economic growth," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. "I commend each of these communities for their progressive and productive environmental leadership."

"Redevelopment of these sites is sound environmental policy and sound economic policy," said Sen. John F. Kerry. "It will create jobs and foster a healthier environment for residents of these communities. This is yet another example of the vital role that the EPA plays in making cities and towns cleaner and safer places to live."

"This is terrific news for a growing town and it demonstrates that Woburn is moving forward with a vigorous program of redevelopment that will provide jobs for the entire community," said U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey.

"I am pleased to learn that the US EPA has selected the Blackburn and Union Privileges site in Walpole as a recipient of a Superfund Redevelopment award," said U.S. Rep. Jospeh Moakley. "The money will be used for planning the developmental use of this superfund site, which has been home to hazardous substances such as chromium, arsenic and mercury for many years. When we redevelop superfund sites such as this, we transform a once unwanted hazard into land that will benefit the whole community."

"I am extremely grateful to the EPA for committing these federal resources to develop a reuse plan," said U.S. Rep. John W. Olver. "This grant will allow PEDA to begin evaluating the property and investigating the opportunities for redevelopment. Addressing the PCB contamination will help bring about the rebirth of a key industrial site for Pittsfield."

The sites in line to receive grants were: The Blackburn and Union Privileges Superfund Site, Walpole ($100,000) This site for the past 300 years was an industrial site at which chromium, arsenic, mercury and asbestos were used. Walpole officials want to stimulate the local economy and hope to determine if this site can be redeveloped. The town will form a community stakeholder group, do a reuse assessment of the site, hold informational workshops for the community and local government, and recommend options for reuse.

New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site, New Bedford ($99,733) This 18,000-acre site in an urban tidal estuary has sediments that are highly contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals. From the 1940s until the 1970s, two electrical capacitor manufacturing facilities discharged PCB-wastes either directly into the harbor or indirectly via discharges to the city's sewage system. As a result, the harbor is contaminated for at least six miles, from the upper Acushnet River to Buzzards Bay. In 1983, EPA added the site to its list of hazardous waste sites needing cleanup.

As part of the cleanup, EPA will remove 450,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment and store it in confined disposal facilities on shore. One of the disposal facilities will be in the industrial North Terminal Area, which is dominated by marine-related uses. New Bedford plans to use these funds to prepare conceptual and design plans for a freight terminal at the North Terminal Area disposal facility, thereby encouraging economic development along the waterfront.

The General Electric (GE)-Pittsfield/Housatonic River Site, Pittsfield ($100,000) This site includes the GE facility, filled areas of the Housatonic River, Allendale School, Silver Lake, and the floodplains and sediments of the Housatonic River, which was contaminated by PCBs that migrated from the facility or were dumped in the river. The portion of the site slated for redevelopment is in the heart of the city and has been vacant for many years. In September 1997, EPA added the site to its list of hazardous waste sites needing cleanup. In October 1999, EPA reached an agreement with GE which will result in cleanup, restoration and redevelopment of the GE site, including the Housatonic River.

Before closing its Pittsfield plant, GE was the largest employer in the region and a major handler of PCBs in western Massachusetts. The Pittsfield Economic Development Authority (PEDA) will use the EPA funds to develop a reuse plan for the site. Economic redevelopment of the property represents the area's single best opportunity for attracting much-needed businesses to the area. As part of the reuse plan, PEDA will work closely with citizens to investigate the property's condition, identify constraints to and opportunities for reuse, and evaluate the impacts of redeveloping the site.

Wells G & H, Woburn ($100,000) These wells once supplied 30 percent of the city's drinking water. In 1979, city police discovered several 55-gallon drums of industrial waste abandoned on a vacant lot near the wells. These drums were removed, and the nearby Wells G & H were tested and found to be contaminated with volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). Both of the wells were shut down in 1979. The site received national attention in the 1980s when several Potentially Responsible Parties settled with plaintiffs representing six families whose children had died of leukemia, allegedly caused by drinking the contaminated well water. In the late 1990s, this story again was brought into the limelight through the book and major motion picture, Civil Action. In 1983, EPA added the site to its list of hazardous waste sites needing cleanup.

Woburn plans to develop a reuse plan to help determine reasonable future uses for the municipal parcels and adjacent properties now affected by contamination from the site. The city will also involve the community and other stakeholders in deciding how to reuse the property, including developing a land use plan and participating in city-sponsored and EPA public meetings.

Silresim Chemical Corporation Superfund Site, Lowell ($100,000) Lowell intends to assess the potential uses of the site and draft a redevelopment plan for the Silresim site. As part of the plan, the city will form a community advisory board to oversee the development of a reuse plan, do a land-use study, and create a Silresim Development Council to monitor the actual redevelopment.

This five-acre site, which is in an industrial area of the city, once processed and treated a variety of chemical wastes, waste oil, solvents, and sludge to reclaim some of the valuable chemicals contained in the waste. In 1977, Silresim declared bankruptcy and abandoned the site, leaving behind 30,000 decaying drums and several large chemical storage tanks. In 1983, EPA added the site to its list of hazardous waste sites needing cleanup.