Grace Safety Report Questioned by EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing a September report sponsored by the W.R. Grace Co. chemical firm on the toxicity of a controversial North Cambridge dump site the company used.

The report, by Grace contractors Haley and Aldrich, Inc., said the materials deposited at the dump--and since removed--have not contaminated area groundwater and pose no risk to area residents' health.

Michael J. Nalipinski, the EPA official who is studying the report, is sharply critical of it.

"The EPA has had a very difficult time coming up with the same conclusions that Grace has, based on the same information," he said."

"The problem is that Grace did not support their conclusions," said Nalipinski. "They presented computational figures with conclusions, but absolutely no discussion on how they arrived at them."

W.R. Grace is planning a major office development on the site, located between Whittemore Avenue and Rindge Avenue along Alewife Brook Parkway, but nearby residents speaking at city-sponsored hearings have opposed new building until more the area gets a clean bill of health.

The Grace report is being criticized for its methodology, said Cambridge City Councilor Alice K. Wolf. "Their experiments with soil samples are questionable because they mixed all the soils together, then studied them, which may have diluted the contaminents, and changed the data," she said.

Wolf said that the city intends to monitor and test the site, and set up meetings to review the latest findings because they do not want any developments on areas that are unsafe.

"There is a lot of concern in the community," said Wolf, "because contamination can affect the ground water and the soil itself, and once construction on a piece of property begins, it blows around and spreads to surrounding neighborhoods also."

Wolf suggests that it may be necessary to involve an independent group that can examine the facts, gather additional evidence, and examine the data, and she said it may be at least a period of months until the issue is resolved.

MASSPIRG, an advocacy organization that promotes hazardous waste clean-up, said the W.R. Grace site needs to be cleaned up more.

Laura S. Barrett, a spokesman for MASSPIRG, said that Grace is responsible for the manufacturing processes that have contaminated soils and groundwater with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic substances, and heavy metals.

Mark Stoler, a lawyer with Grace, said that all the wastes have been removed from the site--all the above