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EPA Announces Cleanup Settlement in Woburn Superfund Site

July 9, 1991

BOSTON (AP) _ More than a decade after chemical pollution forced the closure of two municipal wells in suburban Woburn, six companies have agreed to pay $69.4 million to clean up the Superfund site.

The site had gained widespread attention when eight families sued, alleging the contaminants were responsible for six leukemia deaths.

Under the agreement announced Monday, the companies will pay an estimated $58.4 million for cleaning up the soil and groundwater on their properties, said Julie Belaga, regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Belaga said the companies also agreed to pay an estimated $5.8 million to pay for EPA oversight of the cleanup, $2.6 million for past costs of investigating the site, and more than $2 million for further study and oversight.

The wells were closed in 1979 after tests showed the area was contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls, arsenic, mercury, cadmium and other chemicals. The 330-acre spot was designated a Superfund site in 1983.

EPA officials estimated it would take about three years to clean the contaminated soil, and up to 50 years to purify the groundwater.

The wells had supplied water since 1964 to a neighborhood in the city about 12 miles north of Boston.

Companies associated with four out of five contaminated properties agreed to the plan: W.R. Grace & Co.; UniFirst Corp.; New England Plastics; and Beatrice Co.

Also signing on were Wildwood Conservation Corp., which owns contaminated property at the site; and John J. Riley, Jr., who bought a tannery there from Beatrice in 1983.

UniFirst and Grace settled the families’ suit out of court, and much of the case against Beatrice and Riley was later thrown out.

Olympia Nominee Trust, a company associated with a fifth property identified as a pollutant, did not sign on to the agreement. Belaga said the EPA would continue efforts to get Olympia to join the cleanup.