EPA Keeps Tabs on Some Nasty Properties

By ecoRI News staff

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently completed its required review of cleanups at 25 Superfund sites across New England. The EPA conducts evaluations every five years on previously completed clean-up and remediation work performed at such sites to determine whether the implemented remedies continue to be protective of public health and the environment. These properties contain plenty of dangerous and toxic materials and substances.

Here is a look at the Superfund sites in southern New England where the EPA completed five-year reviews in fiscal 2014 (Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2014):


Site: Linemaster Switch Corp., Woodstock.
About: The 45-acre site has been used to manufacture electrical and pneumatic foot switches and wiring harnesses since 1952. Facility operations involve the use of trichloroethylene (TCE), paint and thinners. Wastes are stored in barrels inside of sheds near the factory building. Due to the spread of contamination, the site boundary has been expanded to 92 acres. About 2,100 people live within 3 miles of the site and obtain drinking water from wells drawing on the contaminated groundwater. An on-site well supplies drinking water to the factory and its offices. The site is surrounded by the town of Woodstock, a rural community of some 5,300 people. Artificial ponds on the site are used for boating.
Threats/contaminants: Groundwater, sediments, surface water and soils are contaminated with TCE. TCE also was detected in Linemaster's main pump house well, which supplies drinking water to the factory and its offices. Solvents were detected in the artificial ponds. Public health threats included drinking contaminated groundwater and coming into direct contact with the soil, surface water and sediments.

Site: Nutmeg Valley Road, Wolcott.
About: The investigation of the Nutmeg Valley Road site centered around Nutmeg Screw Machine Products Co., which covers 3 acres on Nutmeg Valley Road. The area around the site is both rural residential and light industrial, with several other metal-working and metal-finishing shops in the immediate vicinity. Some substances used in the machining processes such as kerosene-like cutting oil, machine lubrication oils, cyanide wastes, and agents used for cleaning and degreasing, such as carbon tetrachloride, were dumped onto the ground at an estimated rate of as much as 15 gallons a day until 1980. Evidence suggests that other companies in the area had similar disposal practices. About 10,500 people draw drinking water from private wells within 3 miles of the site. There are some 43 industries and 25 residences using groundwater as a drinking water source at this site.
Threat/contaminants: Groundwater from industrial wells in the area were found to be contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), heavy metals and cyanide. The soil was found to be contaminated with VOCs and heavy metals including lead and copper. The potential primary health threats to area residents were from accidental ingestion of or direct contact with contaminated water or soil.


Site: Baird & McGuire, Holbrook.
About: The 20-acre Baird & McGuire facility operated as a chemical mixing and batching company from 1912 to 1983. Later activities included mixing, packaging, storing and distributing various products, including pesticides, disinfectants, soaps, floor waxes and solvents. Some of the raw materials used at the site were stored in a tank farm and piped to the laboratory or mixing buildings. Other raw materials were stored in drums on site. Waste disposal methods at the site included direct discharge into the soil, a nearby brook, wetlands and a former gravel pit. Hazardous wastes historically were disposed of in an on-site lagoon and cesspool. Also included on site were two lagoons open to rain and large areas of buried wastes such as cans, debris, lab bottles and hundreds of bottles of chemicals. The lagoon area has been capped with clay. The site is completely fenced and a groundwater recirculation system was operated to contain the groundwater plume until permanent remedies were implemented. The site is 500 feet west of the Cochato River.
Threats/contaminants: The groundwater is contaminated with pesticides and organic and inorganic chemicals. Studies found significant levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), other organic compounds, arsenic and pesticides, including DDT and chlordane in the Cochato River sediments. Site soils were found to be contaminated with VOCs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), other organic compounds, pesticides, dioxin and heavy metals such as lead and arsenic. Dioxin also has been detected in area wetland soils. The last operating well in the South Street Municipal Well Field was shut down in 1982 because of unacceptably high levels of organic contamination. The groundwater plume contaminated the Cochato River sediments; however, no significant health risk was found based on human contact with contaminated sediments. Contaminated sediments were found to be acutely toxic to aquatic life.

Site: Hatheway & Patterson Co., Mansfield.
About: The company is a former wood preserving facility in a mixed residential and industrial area. The property is about 40 acres and is bordered to the north by residential properties, to the south and west by forested and wetland areas, and to the east by a welding and masonry supply company. Operations at the property have included preserving wood sheeting, planking, timber, piling, poles, and other wood products. The company began wood-treating operations in 1953. The company used various methods and materials to treat wood, including PCP in fuel oil, creosote, fluoro-chrome-arsenate-phenol (FCAP) salts, chromated copper-arsenate (CCA) and Dricon(tm) (a fire retardant).
Threats/contaminants: In 1971, a tar mat about 62 feet long and 6 inches wide was discovered in Mansfield. At the end of 1972, a resident complained of “oily water” and dead waterfowl in the Rumford River downstream of the facility. Subsequently, MassDEP and the town of Mansfield requested that HPC contain the seepage. By 1973, the company developed a contaminated groundwater recovery trench along the east bank of the Rumford River. Oily seepage was again detected in the Rumford River in 1981 by a prospective buyer of the site. In 1987, the company was issued a Notice of Noncompliance by the MassDEP. In 1999, the state closed the Rumford River from below Glue Factory Pond dam to the Norton Reservoir to all fishing because of dioxin contamination attributed to the company. Releases of dioxins and phenols also have impacted some 1.25 miles of wetland frontage along the Rumford River, and the releases pose a threat to several other wetland areas, fisheries and habitats downstream of the facility.

Site: Hocomonoco Pond, Westborough.
About: The 23-acre site is bordered on the northwest by Hocomonco Pond, a 27-acre shallow, freshwater pond that has long been used for recreational purposes. From 1928 until 1946, the site was used as a wood-treating and preservation operation. The business consisted of saturating wood products (telephone poles, railroad ties, pilings and fence posts) with creosote to preserve them. During the treatment process, excess creosote and wastes where discharged to an unlined pit. The former lagoon was excavated to intercept and contain spillage and wastes from wood-treatment operations. As this lagoon became filled with creosote waste, sludges and water, the contents were then pumped into two low depressions east of the site, near the west side of Otis Street.
Threats/contaminants: The groundwater, soil and sediments from the pond and its shore were contaminated with creosote, which contains carcinogenic polyaromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) compounds. Pure creosote exists as a pool of dense non-aqueous phased liquids about 120 feet below the surface. To prevent a potential exposure to these contaminants, no groundwater production wells are allowed at the site.

Site: Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant, Bedford.
About: The plant is a 46-acre facility that is part of a larger industrial complex immediately north of Hanscom Air Force Base, which is also a Superfund site. The plant is operated by Raytheon Co. and was established in 1952 when a missile and radar development laboratory was built. Wastes generated included various volatile organic compounds (VOCs), photographic fixer, waste oil and coolants, lacquer thinner, unspecified solvents and thinners, and chromic, sulfuric, nitric, hydrochloric and phosphoric acids. About 11,000 people rely on drinking water wells located within 4 miles of the site. The Shawsheen River, 7 miles downstream, is a source of drinking water for some 12,800 people.
Threats/contaminants: Iron and VOCs contamination, including benzene, trichlorethene, and tetrachlorethene, have been detected in three water supply wells operated by the town of Bedford; these wells have since been closed. There are extensive wetlands and several species of rare plants and wildlife along this river and the Elm Brook, which is downstream from the facility. Ingesting or coming into contact with contaminated groundwater or wastes could be a health risk.

Site: Nyanza Chemical Waste Dump, Ashland.
About: The dump is a 35-acre parcel adjacent to an active industrial complex. From 1917 to 1978, the site was used to produce textile dyes, intermediates and other products. Nyanza Inc. operated on this site from 1965 until 1978, when it ceased operations. Large volumes of industrial wastewater containing high levels of acids and numerous organic and inorganic chemicals, including mercury, were generated. Some of the wastes were partially treated and discharged into the Sudbury River through a small stream, referred to as “Chemical Brook.” More than 45,000 tons of chemical sludges generated by Nyanza's wastewater treatment processes, along with spent solvents and other chemical wastes, were buried on site. About 10,000 people live within 3 miles of the site.
Threats/contaminants: The groundwater, soil, sediments and surface water are contaminated with heavy metals and chlorinated organics. The groundwater and soil also are contaminated with spent solvents and chemical wastes. Vapors originating from spent solvents in shallow groundwater have also been detected inside some area buildings. Health threats include direct contact with or accidental ingestion of contaminated groundwater or soil, and inhalation of vapors inside some area buildings. Sudbury River fish are contaminated with mercury.

Site: Rose Disposal Pit, Lanesborough.
About: The site is a 1-acre waste disposal area, and occupies a section of a 14-acre residential lot bordering Balance Rock State Park, which is forestland; cropland and pastures are nearby. Beginning in 1951 and continuing through 1959, waste oils and solvents from the General Electric plant in nearby Pittsfield were disposed of in an open trench at the site. In 1980, the state inspected the site and found 15,000 cubic yards of soil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Two plumes of contaminated groundwater were discovered moving to the east and south away from the disposal area. About 100 people live within a mile of the site and may be affected by the contaminated drinking water.
Threats/contaminants: The groundwater is contaminated with PCBs and VOCs, including trichloroethylene (TCE), benzene and vinyl chloride. The contaminant plumes extend from the pit eastward into the park and to the south, and are carried off by a small unnamed stream. The sediments, soil and surface water at the site and a nearby wetland were contaminated with PCBs and VOCs.

Site: Silresim Chemical Corp., Lowell.
About: Starting in 1971, Silresim began reclaiming a variety of chemical wastes, waste oil, solvents and sludges containing heavy metals. In 1977, the company declared bankruptcy and abandoned the property, leaving behind 30,000 decaying drums and several large storage tanks. The state began to clean up the site in 1978. About 10,000 people live within a mile of the property, and an estimated 24,000 people live within 3 miles. Groundwater flows generally to the northwest toward River Meadow Brook, which drains into the Concord River and then into the Merrimack River.
Threats/contaminants: Groundwater is contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), semi-volatile organic compounds, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals. Soil is contaminated with VOCs, semi-volatile organic compounds, pesticides and PCBs. Low levels of dioxin also are present in the soil. Accidental ingestion or contact with contaminated soils and groundwater could pose a health risk.

Site: South Weymouth Naval Air Station, Weymouth.
About: The site is some 1,442 acres and is in the towns of Weymouth, Abington and Rockland. The facility was used continuously until it closed in September 1997 under the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1990 (BRAC). The land surrounding the site is suburban, with a mixture of residential, industrial and commercial uses. After acquiring the site in 1941, the Navy used it as a Lighter than Air facility for dirigible aircraft used to patrol the North Atlantic during World War II. The facility was closed at the end of the war, then reopened in 1953 as a Naval Air Station for aviation training. Activities performed at the site included aircraft maintenance, refueling, personnel training and housing, and administrative support services. The wastes generated by the facility were reportedly disposed in three on-site landfills. Flammable liquid wastes reportedly were burned at the fire training area, and small amounts of waste battery acid, possibly containing lead, may have been disposed in the tile leachfield. Eighteen municipal drinking water wells within 4 miles of the site provide drinking water to about 74,000 people.
Threats/contaminants: Soil samples, collected during a 1991 site investigation, were found to be contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and heavy metals. Groundwater samples collected near the West Gate landfill, the Rubble Disposal area, the fire fighting training area and the tile leachfield are contaminated primarily with heavy metals. There are recreational fisheries and wetlands along the Old Swamp River and French Stream/Indian Head River watersheds. Ingesting or directly contacting the contaminants in the soil or groundwater could pose a health risk.

Site: W.R. Grace & Co. Inc., Acton.
About: The site is in the towns of Acton and Concord and is comprised of about 260 acres that includes several surface water bodies and various wetlands. The site is bounded to the north in part by Fort Pond Brook and to the east and south by the Assabet River. Residential properties border the site to the northeast, northwest, east and west, and several Industrial properties border the site to the south and northeast. The site had been the former location of the American Cyanamid Co. and the Dewey & Almy Chemical Co. These companies produced sealant products for rubber containers, latex products, plasticizers and resins. W. R. Grace bought the properties and operations in 1954. The operations at the Grace facility included the production of materials used to make concrete, container sealing compounds, latex products and paper and plastic battery separators. Effluent wastes from the manufacturing process were disposed of into several unlined lagoons, and solid and hazardous wastes were buried in or placed onto an on-site industrial landfill and several other disposal areas. Since 1973, residents in South Acton have filed complaints about periodic odors and irritants in the air around the plant.
Threats/contaminants: Groundwater is contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Sediments in Sinking Pond and the North Lagoon wetland are contaminated with arsenic and manganese. The hazardous soils and sludges in the former waste disposal areas were contaminated primarily with arsenic and VOCs, including vinyl chloride, ethyl benzene, benzene, 1,1-dichlorethylene and bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate. The remediation of the soils and sludge disposal areas were completed in 1997; about 173,000 cubic yards of contaminated materials were removed.

Site: Wells G & H, Woburn.
About: G & H were two municipal wells developed in 1964 and 1967 to supplement the water supply of the city of Woburn. The wells supplied 30 percent of the city’s drinking water. In 1979, police discovered several 55-gallon drums of industrial waste abandoned on a vacant lot near the wells. As a result of this discovery, the nearby wells were tested and found to be contaminated. Both of the wells were shut down in 1979. Five separate properties on the site were found to be the contributing sources of contamination to the aquifer that supplied the water to the two municipal wells. The total site covers an area of 330 acres, and the Aberjona River flows through the middle of the site. Stormwater runoff from the site is directed through drainage systems toward the river and its tributaries.
Threats/contaminants: The groundwater is contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE). Sediments in the Aberjona River are contaminated with heavy metals such as arsenic. Soil is contaminated with PAHs, polychlorinated biphynels (PCBs), VOCs and pesticides. People are at risk if they accidentally touch or swallow contaminated groundwater, soil or sediments in the Aberjona River.


Site: Landfill Resource & Recovery Inc., North Smithfield.
About: The site is a 28-acre landfill that originally was a sand and gravel pit and was used for small-scale refuse disposal from 1927-1974. In 1974, the site was sold and developed into a large-scale disposal facility accepting commercial, municipal and industrial wastes. Until 1979, an estimated 1 million gallons of hazardous wastes were accepted and disposed of with other wastes in the central portion of the landfill. The hazardous wastes included many types of bulk and drummed organic and inorganic materials in liquid, sludge and solid forms. Landfilling of commercial and residential wastes continued until 1985, when the owners closed the landfill and placed another synthetic cover over most of the landfill. Soil was placed over the synthetic cover and it was partially planted with vegetation. More than 3,000 people live within 3 miles of the site. Most, if not all, residences in the site’s vicinity obtain their drinking water from individual wells. Trout Brook, adjacent to the site, and the Slatersville Reservoir, into which it discharges, are used for fishing and other recreation, but are not public water supply sources.
Threats/contaminants: The air at the landfill was contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including carbon tetrachloride, chloroform and benzene. The on-site groundwater is contaminated with arsenic, lead and VOCs from waste liquids disposed of on site and from rainwater entering the landfilled wastes, causing contamination to seep into the groundwater. The surface water on the site is contaminated with lead. The immediate health threat at the site was from uncontrolled gaseous emissions from the landfill. The landfill closure in 1994 and 1995, including construction of landfill gas collection and enclosed flare treatment system, minimized threats of contamination in air, groundwater and surface water. The landfill is enclosed by a chain-link fence. The only significant environmental threat was to the wetlands surrounding the site. The cleanup action minimized soil erosion from the landfill and the resultant filling in of the nearby wetlands.