Lawmaker held hearings more than three decades ago on contamination at Woburn toxic dump sites
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Malden), dean of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation and a leading architect of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund, released the following statement after the Department of Justice announced a settlement with Pharmacia Corporation and Bayer CropScience Inc. to pay $4.25 million in natural resources damages caused by hazardous contamination at the Industri-plex site in Woburn, Massachusetts.
“This settlement will help right the environmental wrongs that the Industri-plex site in Woburn and the surrounding natural areas have suffered dating from the century of the Civil War. While this final settlement brings an end to the more than 30-year effort to address the contamination at the dump sites in Woburn, it is important to recognize that were it not for the tireless efforts of Anne Anderson, Reverend Bruce Young and other Woburn families to force the federal government and the corporate polluters to clean up the site, we wouldn’t be seeing this settlement today.
“I commend the Department of Justice for securing this settlement and ensuring that the companies responsible for contaminating the precious wetlands, riverbeds and wildlife around the Aberjona River and Mystic Lakes will pay to restore their beauty and health for people to enjoy for centuries to come.
“As Ranking Member on the House Natural Resources Committee, I will be closely monitoring the work of the Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure this restoration occurs swiftly and properly.”
Three decades ago, Rep. Markey began meeting with families in Woburn affected by the hazardous waste contamination at the Woburn dump sites and championed their cause. Industrial activities including, textile, leather, glue and paper manufacturing at the sites contaminated underlying groundwater with high concentrations of arsenic, lead, chromium, benzene, toluene and other toxic substances. Families living near the dump sites suffered high incidences of leukemia, which scientists asserted were linked to contamination at the site. The Woburn sites formed the basis of the book and movie entitled “A Civil Action” and was one of the precipitating incidents that spurred Congress to enact the Superfund law. This law established the principle that polluters must pay for cleaning up any contamination they caused, as well as pay costs for natural resources damages, which is what today’s settlement covers.
Rep. Markey held a field hearing in Woburn in 1983 focusing on contamination at the site and the harm caused to Woburn families. Rep. Markey issued a 1985 report entitled “Deadly Delay” focusing attention on the Reagan administration’s lack of progress in cleaning up the site. Subsequently, in the mid-1990’s Rep. Markey fought efforts by Congressional Republicans to repeal or substantially weaken the natural resources provisions of CERCLA that form the basis for today’s settlement. In 1995, Rep. Markey issued a report called “Saluting Polluting” that highlighted Republican efforts to gut Superfund reform and the impacts this would have on the state of Massachusetts. Rep. Markey continued to press for progress to clean up the Industri-plex site, including in 1996 bringing Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt to visit the Woburn site.
Today, the Industri-plex site houses the James “Jimmy” Anderson Regional Transportation Center, named in honor of one of the boys who died of leukemia following exposure to contaminated waste at the Woburn site.