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Acton - Concord,  Massachusetts
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Dr. Robert Jackson


Facts (Click for full information at the epa.gov web site.)

The W. R. Grace (Acton Plant) Superfund site is located in the towns of Acton and Concord, Massachusetts and is accessible via Independence Road. The W.R. Grace property is comprised of approximately 260 acres of land 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 Grace site to the northeast, northwest, east and west and several Industrial properties border the site to the south and northeast. Industrial parks and a gravel pit border the site to the south and residential housing borders the site to the west and northeast.

The site had been the former location of the American Cyanamid Company and the Dewey & Almy Chemical Company. These companies produced sealant products for rubber containers, latex products, plasticizers, resins, and other products. W. R. Grace purchased the properties and operations from American Cyanamid and Dewey & Almy in 1954. The Grace operations at the W. R. 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 (the Primary Lagoon, Secondary Lagoon, North Lagoon, and Emergency Lagoon), and solid and hazardous wastes were buried in or placed onto an on-site industrial landfill and several other disposal areas. These other waste sites included the Battery Separator Lagoons, the Battery Separator Chip Pile, the Boiler Lagoon, and the Tank Car Area. In addition, the by-products of some chemical processes were also disposed of in the Blowdown Pit. All discharges to the unlined pits were ceased by W.R Grace in 1980

Since 1973, residents in South Acton have filed complaints about periodic odors and irritants in the air around the W. R. Grace plant. Sampling of Assabet l & ll by the Town of Acton in 1978 indicated that these two municipal wells contained detectable concentrations of 1,1-dichloroethene or vinylidine chloride (1,1 DCE or VDC). As a result of these findings, the Town of Acton took the precautionary measure of temporarily closing the two wells. As part of an agreement and settlement between W.R. Grace and the Town of Acton, The Acton Water District (AWD), installed, operates and maintains air stripper units which removes any volatile organic compounds that may be present in groundwater pumped from Assabet 1, Assabet 2, Scribner, Lawsbrook and Christofferson Town wells. The AWD routinely treats and samples the water they provide to their users to ensure that all safe drinking water quality standards are met, prior to distirbution.

Heavy Metal Threats and Contaminants

Groundwater is contaminated with Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) including 1,1,DCE, benzene and vinyl chloride and inorganics/metals including arsenic, iron and manganese, The hazardous soils and sludges in the former disposal areas were contaminated primarily with arsenic and VOCs, including vinyl chloride, ethyl benzene, benzene, 1,1-dichlorethylene, and bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate. Cleanup and remediation of the soils and sludge disposal areas was completed in 1997. Approximately 173,000 cubic yards of contaminated materials were removed and properly disposed of. Work on a Remedial Investigation, human health and ecological risk assessment and Feasibility study began in 1998 and were finalized on July 1, 2005. The purpose of these documents are the following: determine the nature and extent of groundwater,surface water and sediment contamination, determine if and where there are unacceptable human health or ecological risks and how to reduce any unacceptable risks. On September 30, 2005, EPA issued a Record of Decision (ROD) outlining the selected remedy for the final phase (Operable Unit Three) of groundwater and sediment cleanup.

More information on this case

Acton Public Library, 486 Main Street, Acton, MA 01720

EPA New England Records Center, One Congress Street, Boston, MA 02114 (617) 918-1440

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Dr. Robert Jackson