Environmental Group Launches Drive To Clean Up State's Hazardous Waste
The Department of Environment Quality Engineering (DEQE) launched its statewide campaign to identify and clean up hazardous waste sites yesterday by releasing a list of 372 confirmed or suspected waste sites.
The DEQE report, the first comprehensive survey of its kind, lists 51 confirmed sites of illegal or improper treatment, storage or disposal of hazardous waste and 321 sites selected for further investigation.
One Cambridge site slated for investigation is a Harvey St. plant owned and operated by Organic Chemicals, a division of the W.R. Grace Company.
Dick Chalpin, a DEQE spokesman, said yesterday Organic Chemicals dumped 1600 tons of industrial waste between 1950 and 1978, when the site was closed down. Some of the waste includes iron manganese, magnesium, acrylates, latex emulsions, and alcohols.
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Twenty-one of the confirmed sites have been cleaned up, and the other 30 are either in litigation or negotiation for cleanup.
But DEQE officials stressed yesterday that they are not accusing the companies that will be investigated of polluting the environment. "We are merely acknowledging that the potential exists," William Cass, director of the Division of Hazardous Waste, said yesterday.
Cass added that much of its data is approximate. The DEQE has not checked the accuracy of all its information, he said, adding that further investigation at many sites may show they are harmless.
But because the DEQE lacks both manpower and money to check every potentially hazardous site, it must rely on communities for the preliminary investigations.
Anthony D. Cortese, DEQE chairman, said yesterday he has asked officials of the 351 cities and towns in the state to name hazardous waste coordinators to direct local surveys. So far, about 40 per cent of the communities have complied.
The DEQE will attempt to investigate sites in cities like Cambridge, which have not yet named local coordinators, Chalpin said.
"It's just not morally right to sit back and wait when there's the possibility that people are being exposed to dangerous chemicals," Chalpin said, adding, "But without local support, we might not get to it for a year or more."
The DEQE report estimates that Massachusetts industry, hospitals, research facilities, and other organizations generate between 63 and 99 million gallons of hazardous waste each year.
The report also says the cost of properly disposing of hazardous waste is extremely high, and a lack of disposal facilities in Massachusetts is becoming critical.