Superfund At Work by nit66238


                        United States                            Solid Waste and                    EPA 520-F-92-01 5
                        Environmental Protection                 Emergency Response                      Winter 1993
                        Agency                                   (5502G)

                        Superfund At Work
                        Hazardous Waste Cleanup Efforts Nationwide


                                          Cleanup Begins at Wells G&H,
Site Description: Two municipal
drinking water wells located in
Woburn, Massachusetts.
                                          One Year After Landmark
Site Size: 330 acres                      New England Settlement
Primary Contaminants:
Volatile organic compounds                  In July 1991, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
(benzene, PCE, TCE), organics, lead,     negotiated a record-breaking Superfund settlement for cleanup of
pesti$des, PCBs, PAHs
                                         municipal wells “G” & “H” in Woburn, Massachusetts. One year
Potential Range of Health Risks
Without EPA Cleanup:
                                         later, comprehensive cleanup activities have begun at four of the site’s
Skin irritation, increased risk of       five property areas. Contamination of the wells was discovered in
cancer resulting from contact with       1979 when local residents suspected that an unusually high incidence
and ingestion of contaminated soil,
sediments, or ground water               of childhood leukemia was linked to drinking water. EPA’s
Nearby Population Affected:
                                         Superfund enforcement efforts yielded a resolution in which:
36,000 residents in Woburn                l Settling parties agreed to a cleanup worth approximately $70

Ecological Concerns: Effects of             million, the largest Superfund settlement in New England. The
contaminated river sediments on             agreement directs cleanup of four properties simultaneously;
wildlife and invertebrates
                                          l EPA achieved this record settlement in only four months of nego-
Year Listed on the NPL: 1982
                                            tiations; and
EPA Region: I
                                          l Initially recalcitrant polluters realized they were better off cooperat-
State: Massachusetts
                                            ing with the Superfund process, and are working with both EPA
Congressional District: 4
                                            and the community as partners.

                              The Wells G & H Site                              The Site Today
City police discovered abandoned drums at the site, which is located in east
Woburn, Massachusetts. Two municipal wells were contaminated, leading to           As of September 30,1992,
EPA investigation and cleanup.                                                  two of the four settling parties’
                                                                                began pumping and treating
                                  1Woburn. M A                                  contaminated ground water.
                                                                                Excavation of contaminated soil
                                                                                is underway at two other prop-
                                                                                   Under the settlement, the
                                                                                companies agreed to clean up
                                                                                the sources of pollution at four
                                                                                of the five site properties. Ne-
                                                                                gotiations are taking place
                                                                                between EPA and parties asso-
                                                                                ciated with the fifth property.
                            SuDerfund At Work        l        Wells G&H. Woburn. Massachusetts                        l   Winter 1993

                                                   A Site Snapshot
   The Wells G & H site includes                    The property owners primarily                                         Foods is also a liable party; the
two municipal wells (G & H), 330                 liable for the contamination of                                          former Beatrice property has
acres of land surrounding the                    Wells G & H are: W.R. Grace,                                             since been purchased by Wild-
wells, and a part of the                                                                                                  wood. A combination of illegal
Aberjona River. The Aberjona                                                                                              dumping and accidental spills
River flows through the site and                                    , ~~ ~~ =~__~~~=__--__~-=== = 71,IL ~~~ ~~
                                                                                ROUTE 1%m-~--====lL--~E _~                on these properties created a
into the Mystic Lakes. Wetland                   ~           _ ----Tag             UNIFIRST           ‘I, W R GRACE
                                                                                                                          variety of pollution problems.
areas are found on both sides of                                                                                             The ground water at the site
the river. The site is located in                                                                                         is contaminated with volatile
east Woburn, Massachusetts, a                                                                                             organic compounds (VOCs>
small city of 36,000 people                                                                                               like trichloroethylene (TCE).
about 12 miles northwest of                                                                                               Sediments in the Aberjona
Boston.                                                                                                                   River are contaminated with
   Within the site boundaries,                                                                                            polynuclear aromatic hydrocar-
the area surrounding Wells G &                                                                                            bons (PAHs) and heavy metals
H is used for several purposes                                                                                            such as chromium, zinc, mer-
including light industry, com-                                                                                            cury, and arsenic. Soil is con-
mercial business, industrial                                                                                              taminated with PAHs, poly-
parks, residences, and recre-                                                                                             chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs),
ation. The area is surrounded                                                                                             VOCs, and lead. Exposure to
by industrial and commercial                     UniFirst Corporation, New                                                contaminated soil, river
property to the north, and                       England Plastics, Olympia Nomi-                                          sediment, or ground water
residential property to the                      nee Trust, and Wildwood Conser-                                          may cause an increased risk
south.                                           vation Corporation. Beatrice                                             of cancer.

  Wells G&H                                                                                                      EPA orders Olympia to remove drums

                                                                         Full-blown EPA investigation begins of entire 330-acre site <


  Site                                                           l Three property owners ordered to study
                                                                   ground water and soil contamination
  Timeline                                                       l Site is listed on NPL

                                                         l    Site is proposed for NPL (

                            l    EPA investigates ground water

                    Superfund is enacted
 l  Wobum city police discover
   abandoned drums
 * State discovers contamination in
   two municipal wells
 l State closes the wells and

   provides alternate water supply
                                                                                                       I                       I
 u                                                                       1981                     l! j2
                                                                                                       I                       I
                                                                                                                               1983        1985           1986
1979                                        1980

                                                                                Page 2
                                      Superfund At Work      *   Wells G&H, Woburn, Massachusetts            l    Winter 1993

   Superfund Responds to Tragic Contamination
State Moves to Protect Citizens                           wells were shut down in 1979,                          appeared to be a cluster of child-
   Opened by the City of Woburn                           and the City of Woburn re-                             hood leukemia cases near the site.
in the mid-196Os, Wells G & H                             enacted an agreement with the                          During a public meeting, cases of
were tapped to supplement the                             Massachusetts Water Resource                           childhood leukemia were identi-
existing municipal water supply.                          Authority to permanently supply                        fied, several within a small neigh-
Although there are no reliable                            residents with safe drinking water.                    borhood near the wells. Citizens
records indicating how often the                                                                                 also were concerned by the
wells operated, local officials                           Superfund Sets                                         elevated rate of birth defects and
estimate that the wells provided                          Cleanup in Motion                                      cancer in the local population,
30% of the municipal water                                   In April 1980 -eight months                         and suspected that their exposure
supply until 1979.                                        before Superfund was enacted -                         to contaminated drinking water
   At that time, citizens com-                            a public meeting was organized                         had caused these illnesses. Com-
plained of the bad taste and odor                         by a local citizens group. This                        munity concerns regarding
of their drinking water. Investiga-                       meeting brought together EPA                           environmental hazards sparked
tions by city police turned up                            and the Massachusetts Depart-                          the formation of the citizens
nearly two hundred 55-gallon                              ment of Environmental Quality                          group, For A Cleaner Environ-
drums of industrial waste that                            Engineering (MEQE), to discuss                         ment (FACE) in October 1979.
were abandoned on a vacant lot                            with citizens the pollution of                         FACE subsequently became a
near the wells. Subsequent testing                        Wells G & H. At the meeting,                           voice for the citizens of Woburn
by the Massachusetts Department                           EPA announced its intent to                            on the environmental and public
of Environmental Protection                               study the extent of contamination                      health impacts of the site.
revealed high levels of TCE and                           at the site.                                              In 1982, eight families who had
other industrial solvents contami-                           About this time, the commu-                         lost children to leukemia filed a
nating the ground water. The                              nity also became aware of what                         highly publicized civil suit against

  F   >   l   EPA orders UniFirst to install monitoring wells and remove contaminant

                            )   l   EPA finishes soil and ground water studies

                                                 c   > l EPA determines long-term cleanup approach

                                                                       )   l   Companies jointly agree to conduct cleanup

                                                                                             >   l   ~;.ala$$;O million agreement lodged with
                                                                                                 l   Companies begin design of long-term cleanup

                                                                                                                        l Two of five companies begin
                                                                                                                          long-term ground water cleanup
                                                                                                                        l Two others begin soil


 1987                   1                      1989                 1990                 1991                    1992

                                                                               Page 3
                                             l                                   l    Winter 1993

some of the alleged polluters of the     l  Also in 1987, EPA ordered                  particular mix of contamination
site. National and local media              UniFirst to install monitoring             present at each site. Ultra-
followed the case, keeping the focus        wells and remove pure                      violet oxidation, an innovative
on issues of liability. EPA faced a         tetrachloroethene found in a               treatment, is one method that
challenging situation at the site           well on the property.                      will be used to remove volatile
because of this coverage. Site               In September 1988, EPA con-               organics from ground water.
investigations were initiated in an      cluded its own detailed investiga-            UV radiation is combined with
emotionally charged atmosphere,          tions, which demonstrated that                ozone, hydrogen peroxide, or
coupled with friction among the          ground water contamination                    both; its main advantage is that
                                         specifically came from five proper-           only carbon dioxide and water
                                         ties located around the municipal             are released during the treat-
                                         wells. The following September,               ment phase.
                                         after modifying proposals based on             As of September 30,1992, just
                                         public comments, EPA selected its           over one year after signing the
                                         long-term approach for the site.            agreement, W.R. Grace and
                                                                                     UniFirst have begun long-term
                                         An Innovative Cleanup                       ground water cleanup at their
polluters as some denied responsi-          The plan calls for cleanup of soil       respective site areas, and Wild-
bility for the ground water con-         and ground water using three                wood and New England Plastics
tamination.                              different methods:                          have begun soil excavation.
    In December 1982, the site was       l Some of the contaminated soil

proposed for the National Priori-           will be cleaned in place through a
ties List (NPL), EPA’s roster of            process called vacuum extraction.
hazardous waste sites eligible for          This innovative technology uses
comprehensive cleanup under the             vacuum pumps to draw air out
Superfund program. In Septem-               of the soil. The VOCs trapped in
ber 1983, EPA used its enforce-             the dirt are suctioned out through
ment authority under Superfund              wells installed around the site.
and the Resource Conservation               The air passes through a chamber
and Recovery Act (RCRA) to                  where contaminants are filtered          EPA Reaches Record-Breaking
order the following cleanup                 out, and the treated air is re-          Settlement
actions:                                    leased. This technology mini-               A cooperative effort that now
 l In 1983, EPA ordered three               mizes damage to environmen-              exists between EPA and the
   property owners (W.R. Grace,             tally sensitive areas, and reduces       polluters would not have oc-
   Beatrice Foods, and UniFirst) to         the potential for exposure to site       curred without EPA’s initial use
   fully study the nature and               contaminants during treatment.           of Superfund enforcement tools to
   extent of contamination on            l The areas of the site that are            set the cleanup process in motion.
    their properties.                       contaminated with PCBs, PAHs,               Even with the civil litigation -
 l In 1985, EPA ordered Wild-               and pesticides cannot be treated         and resulting friction between the
    wood Conservation Corpora-              effectively with vacuum extrac-          companies, EPA negotiated in
    tion to put up a fence and hire a       tion. These areas will be exca-          only four months the largest
    24-hour security guard to               vated and treated in an off-site         Superfund settlement in the
    prevent entry by the public to          licensed hazardous waste incin-          history of New England. U.S.
    the contaminated soil.                  erator.                                  Attorney General Scott
 l In 1986 and 1987, EPA issued           l The ground water will be                 Harshbarger noted the signifi-
    two orders to Olympia Nomi-             pumped and treated by various            cance of the settlement: “As a
    nee Trust to remove all drums           methods. Contaminants will be            result of the cooperative effort, the
    and debris from the western             removed in separate treatment            cost of undoing the environmen-
    portion of its property to an off-      plants designed to address the           tal damage will be shouldered by
    site, licensed facility.                                                                          continued on page 5

                                                         Page 4
                        Superfund At Work     l   Wells G&H, Woburn, Massachusetts   l     Winter 1993

                                       TAG’ed for Success
  What is a Technical                   elements of cleanup so that                      information; (3) communicating
  Assistance Grant?                     residents can make more in-                      the group’s site-related con-
     When Congress amended              formed decisions about the                       cerns; (4) disseminating inter-
  the Super-fund law in 1986,           remedy selected for a site.                      pretations of technical informa-
  EPA identified the need for              The community group contib-                   tion to the community; and (5)
  greater involvement by com-           utes 20% of the total costs of the               participating in site visits, when
  munities affected by hazard-          project and manages the TAG for                  possible. The technical advisor
  ous waste sites. The Technical        an average of three years. Only                  can help the community gain a
                                        one TAG is awarded per Super-                    better understanding of
                                        fund site.                                       cleanup activities.
                                           Ideally, technical advisors
                                        should be experts in chemistry,                                       $4.5 million
                                        engineering, epidemiology,                        TAGS
                                        hydrology, hydrogeology, or
                                        other advanced sciences, and be
                                        able to translate the contents of
                                        technical documents to plain
                                        English. The consultant may
  Assistance Grant (TAG) Pro-
                                        assist the group or community in:
  gram provides qualified local
                                        (1) reviewing site-related docu-
  groups with up to $50,000 to
                                        ments, whether produced by EPA
  help them hire independent
                                        or others; (2) meeting with the                   1988                    1992
  technical advisors. These
                                        community to explain technical
  advisors interpret the technical

Superfund Responds                            Performing a study of the area
                                              immediately surrounding
                                                                                 In 1989, EPA awarded the
                                                                              community a Technical Assis-
con timed from page 4                         Wells G & H; and                tance Grant (TAG), enabling
                                              Reimbursing EPA for its past    residents to hire a technical
the responsible parties, not the
taxpayers.”                                   investigation costs, valued at  advisor to help them participate
   EPA Regional Administrator                 $2.65 million. In total, the    more actively in the decision-
                                              companies will perform          making process. Using this grant,
Julie Belaga remarked, “After a
                                              cleanup work valued at almost   the site workplans and all EPA
relatively short period of negotia-
tions, we achieved agreement on                $70 million.                   documents are being reviewed
a record-setting settlement that                                              and commented on by the citi-
lets us begin the comprehensive             Dialogue Aids Cleanup Process     zens’ group, FACE.
cleanup owed to the people of                  There has been a great deal of    Despite the emotional issues
Woburn.”                                    community concern and involve- surrounding the Wells G & H site,
   Under the terms of the settle-           ment associated with the Wells    a steady dialogue between the
ment, the companies are:                    G & H site. At each stage in the  responsible parties, EPA, and the
 l Performing the cleanup, val-
                                            cleanup, EPA kept the public      neighboring community is facili-
   ued at $58.4 million;                    informed and addressed concerns tating the long-term cleanup.
 l Financing EPA’s monitoring of
                                            through informational meetings,
   all cleanup activities, valued at        fact sheets, and press releases.
   $6.4 million;

                                                            Page 5
                                  Superfund At Work         l    Wells G&H, Woburn, Massachusetts          l    Winter 1993

Private Party Cleanup Commitments                                                                                    Success at
   The payment of $70 million to clean up the Wells G&H site is just
one example of an increasing national trend toward responsible party
                                                                                                                     Wells G&H
settlements . Total private party commitments are currently valued at                                               Following the con-
$7.4 billion, with more than two-thirds of this amount settled in the last                                      tamination of two munici-
four years. This trend is due largely to two factors. First, after many                                         pal wells in Woburn,
years of court battles over pollution liability, the courts now have                                            Massachusetts, EPA re-
much clearer precedents for judging a party’s responsibilities at a site.                                       sponded by aggressively
Second, EPA’s “Enforcement First” policy has led to an increased use                                            pursuing polluters and
of tough legal tools to make polluters pay. Thus, potentially respon-                                           compelling them to take
sible parties are now much more likely to cooperate with EPA than in                                            responsibility for the
the early days of Superfund.                                                                                    entire cleanup.
                                                                                                                    By signing a July 1991
                                                                                         87     A               agreement, the property
                                                                                                                owners consented to the
                                                                                                                largest Superfund settle-
           $5   ~
                               Cumulative Estimated $ &he of                                                    ment in New England
                                     Responsible Party
                                                                                                                history. Such enforce-
       E                            Work Commitments
           $4   ~
                                                                                                                ment underscores the
                                                                                                                continued importance of
           $3   -                                                                                               and need for EPA’s
                                                                                                                Superfund program.
           $2 ~                                    SUPE iRFUND

           $1 -

                1980                                   1986                                     1992

                                                        4                          Source: CERCLIS

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