Find out what's in the Sudbury River Oct. 26

The Concord Journal, October 12, 2006
We’re very pleased that Massachusetts recently passed legislation to reduce pollution by products that contain mercury. On July 28 Gov. Mitt Romney signed into law the new bill that phases out the use of such mercury-containing products as thermostats, electrical switches, and blood-pressure cuffs.
The new law further requires manufacturers of mercury-containing products to establish collection programs to eliminate discarded products from the waste stream; mandates manufacturers of fluorescent light bulbs to educate consumers about their mercury content and proper disposal; and establishes target rates for capture of mercury-containing switches in automobiles.
Concord residents face still another source of mercury pollution. For years fish taken from the Sudbury River have been unsafe for human consumption because of high mercury content in their flesh. To learn about the present status of the river and plans for river work in 2007, we recommend attending an EPA information meeting at the Ashland High School Auditorium on Thursday evening, Oct. 26.
This meeting should be of particular interest to residents of towns all along the Sudbury River – Ashland, Framingham, Wayland, Sudbury, Lincoln, and Concord. Representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will report on present cleanup strategy to address groundwater contamination in Ashland, investigation of the Sudbury River, and the timetable for EPA’s 2007 river plan. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Maps, photographs, and posters will be displayed from 7 p.m. on, and formal presentations will start at 7:30. There will be time afterward for questions and discussion.
The source of contamination is the Nyanza Superfund Site, a 35-acre former chemical waste dump operated by Nyanza, Inc., in Ashland, from 1965 to 1978. The plant had produced textile dyes, dye intermediates, and other chemical products since 1917.
More than 45 tons of sludge from Nyanza’s wastewater treatment, as well as waste solvents, heavy metals, and other chemicals, were buried on site, and some partially treated wastes were discharged into a small brook that emptied into the Sudbury River. Sediments in the Sudbury River close to the site have high mercury levels, and fish as far downstream as Concord are affected.
The EPA has managed remedial action at this Superfund Site ever since 1983. In 1987 and 1988 they excavated an underground vault containing 12,025 tons of material. They incinerated 300 tons of contaminated soil and disposed of another 356 tons in an off-site facility.
In a further excavation of outlying sludge and contaminated soil they capped a large area to prevent water from entering, provided water diversion, graded, fenced, and planted that area, and installed groundwater monitoring equipment. Another capped part was excavated to bedrock to create a cell for disposal of additional contaminated soil. That area was filled with contaminated soil and capped. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is responsible for further soil operations.
Several years ago EPA offered tours of the restored site, which is now quite attractive. However, there are still issues concerning contamination of groundwater, soil, and air. An estimated 10,000 people live within 3 miles of the site.
In August EPA announced modifications to the groundwater cleanup. New measures are planned to control volatile organic compounds (VOCs) detected in the groundwater. Vapor mitigation systems to be installed in buildings overlying the contaminated aquifer will reduce possible exposure to VOCs.
For further information on studies of the downstream sections of the Sudbury River, see For more information on the scope of the forthcoming information meeting, please call Jim Murphy of EPA’s Community Affairs office, 617-918-1028, or e-mail
Prepared for REUSIT, Inc., by Vivian Walworth. Please address comments or questions to

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