As reported on Woburn Patch, Pharmacia Corporation and Bayer CropScience Inc. was ordered to pay $4.25 million by the Federal Department of Justice to settle claims of natural resource damages in Woburn on the Industri-plex Superfund site.
The decsion was made in May of 2012.
According to a release from the Massachusetts Department of Environment Protection (DEP) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services, the defendants paid the $4.25 million settlement this week and state and federal agencies are looking for residents and organizations to provide suggestions on how to spend the money.
“With this settlement, we can fund a range of projects designed to restore the natural resources for all to enjoy,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan, who is the natural resources trustee for Massachusetts. “I encourage local residents and organizations to become engaged in the public process that will take place as we solicit, take comment on, and choose these projects in the months ahead.”
The Industri-plex Superfund site is one of several Superfund clean-up sites in the city of Woburn, located where tanneries and chemical companies were once in business. (See timeline below.)
Industri-plex is near the Anderson Regional Transportation Center, along the Aberjona River and the Mystic River watershed, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Although the 'A Civil Action' case is most known in the city due to the effects that Superfund site (Wells G, H; Grace & Unifirst) had on some residents of Woburn, the Industri-plex Superfund site affected a large number of wildlife, including fish, turtles, amphibians, migratory birds (blue herons, black ducks and kingfishers) and the Aberjona River.
"From the late 1850s to the 1960s, companies manufactured various products at the Industri-plex site, including sulfuric acid, arsenic insecticides, organic chemicals, munitions, and glue," the release states. "Hazardous substances disposed there degraded the Aberjona River, as well as wetlands and the Mystic Lakes downstream. These habitats are used by a variety of wildlife, including fish, turtles, amphibians and migratory birds, such as great blue herons, black ducks and kingfishers."
According to the release, when toxic substances enter the environment and injure natural resources, federal and state environmental officials act as trustees for these resources. The natural resource trustees for this site are the U.S. Department of the Interior, through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, through the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). The agencies determined the extent of the injuries from the site and negotiated the $4.25 million settlement for damages.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service looks forward to working with local communities to restore the Aberjona River to a cleaner, healthier environment for wildlife and people,” said Wendi Weber, the Service's Northeast Regional Director.
“Arsenic and chromium wastes from the Industri-plex site caused major environmental contamination to the Aberjona River and nearby wetlands, ponds and floodplain,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “Now, we have the funding and the technical expertise to bring this ecosystem back to vitality again.”
The federal and state agencies will be looking for public input into how to go about the restoration process. Tthere will be several opportunities for public involvement, starting with a public meeting to explain the settlement and describe the restoration planning process. The public will then have opportunities to submit restoration ideas, as well as comment on the draft plan. After public comment and review, the trustees will issue a final plan and begin implementing restoration projects.
Restoration actions can be carried out where the contamination occurred or at other areas within the watershed, the release states. Funds can support land acquisition, habitat restoration, recreational or educational projects, or activities that restore or replace injured or lost natural resources. Potential projects include the creation of new wetlands and the restoration, enhancement or protection of existing wetlands.