In 2005, MassDEP conducted initiatives in six urban communities across the state to determine whether nearby contaminated ("21E") sites posed a health threat to children attending local schools.  The cities selected for this effort were Chelsea, Fall River, Greenfield, Holyoke, Springfield, and Worcester. 

Within these 6 cities, 489 contaminated sites located within 1000 feet of 217 public and private schools were systematically evaluated by agency engineers and scientists.  Specifically addressed in this review was an assessment of whether students at these schools could be exposed to toxic materials at these sites by contact with contaminated soils, inhalation of contaminated dust or chemical vapors, or ingestion of contaminated drinking water.  In addition to this exposure assessment, each site was also evaluated to determine if cleanup actions were being taken in compliance with state regulations and timelines.

The "bottom line" finding from this initiative is positive: there is no evidence that children at any of these schools are being exposed to oils or hazardous chemicals originating from surrounding contaminated sites.  However, agency staff did identify several schools located in converted industrial buildings where chemical products and residues from inside the structure may have been adversely impacting indoor air quality, and worked with appropriate officials to further explore and correct those situations.

Equally positive was a finding that over 80% of the 489 sites initially reviewed as part of this study were found to be in compliance with state cleanup requirements and deadlines.  As a result of enforcement efforts taken by agency staff during the course of this effort, this compliance rate rose to over 90%.  

At most schools, a score of over ninety percent represents a grade of "A".

Worcester  |  Chelsea  |  Fall River


Worcester

   DEP evaluated all response actions conducted at MCP sites located within 1000 feet of Worcester schools, a total of three hundred and three (303) reported releases of oil or hazardous materials.

   The exposure potential evaluation revealed the following:

  • No sites were found that pose a health risk to nearby residents or school children as a result of a direct contact hazard or airborne dust from surficial soil contamination;
  • Three releases resulted in the detection of hazardous materials in the indoor air at three private schools that occupy former industrial facilities. Immediate response actions conducted at these three sites, under close MassDEP scrutiny, have made the schools safe for children;
  • Heating oil releases have occurred at five Worcester public school buildings, one private school building, and one group daycare facility.  A release of gasoline occurred at one Worcester public school.  Each of these releases has been cleaned up and none pose a risk to the students;
  • No other sites were found to have site conditions that could pose a health risk as a result of indoor air contamination caused by vapor migration from contaminated groundwater into nearby schools; and
  • No sites in the study area were found to impact the drinking water provided to residents of Worcester.  Worcester is served by a public water supply system with reservoirs outside the study area.

The compliance evaluation showed that response actions conducted by parties responsible for the contamination have been conducted properly at the majority (81%) of sites within the study area and as a result of its enforcement efforts, DEP has raised the compliance rate to 94% and anticipates the remaining locations will return to compliance in the near future.

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Chelsea

DEP evaluated all response actions conducted at MCP sites located within 1000 feet of Chelsea schools, a total of sixty-four (64) reported releases of oil or hazardous materials.

The exposure potential evaluation revealed the following:

  • No sites were found that pose a health risk to nearby residents or school children as a result of a direct contact hazard or airborne dust from surficial soil contamination;
  • No site conditions were found that could pose a health risk as a result of indoor air contamination caused by vapor migration from contaminated groundwater into nearby homes or schools; and
  • Drinking water is not a potential exposure pathway since Chelsea is served by a water supply system that obtains its water from the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA) system.

The compliance evaluation showed that response actions conducted by parties responsible for the contamination have been conducted properly at the majority (84%) of sites within the study area and as a result of its enforcement efforts, DEP has raised the compliance rate to 92% and anticipates the remaining locations will return to compliance in the near future.

DEP also evaluated the compliance status of an additional 126 MCP sites, at which response actions have been completed. DEP conducted Level 1 audits on fifty-two (52) sites and the equivalent on twenty-six (26) others. Seventy-one (71) releases were determined to only warrant a cursory review (pre-screen) because they were either small volume surface spills/vehicular accidents or sites without any nearby sensitive receptors. DEP completed nineteen (19) Level 2 audits in the City and two are pending completion. From the Department's review of these sites, two were recommended for a Level 3 audit which are underway and two were recommend for inspections. The inspections were completed at two sites with an Activity and Use Limitation (AUL) and no violations were identified regarding the obligations of the AUL.

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Fall River

MassDEP evaluated all response actions conducted at MCP sites located within 1000 feet of 48 Fall River schools as well as targeted response actions conducted at MCP sites located in designated environmental justice areas in Fall River.

DEP evaluated a total of 89 reported releases of oil or hazardous materials at MCP sites located within 1000 feet of 33 schools and at additional locations within a designated environmental justice area. No releases were reported within the 1000-foot radius of 15 schools. DEP also evaluated businesses that generate hazardous waste in the same target areas.

The exposure pathway assessment revealed that:

  • No site conditions were found that could pose a health risk as a result of indoor air contamination caused by vapor migration from contaminated groundwater into nearby homes or schools;
  • No sites were found that pose a health risk to nearby residents or school children as a result of a direct contact hazard or airborne dust from surficial soil contamination; and
  • No MCP sites in the study area were found to impact the drinking water provided to residents of Fall River. Fall River is served by a public water supply system with reservoirs outside the study area.

The regulatory compliance evaluation findings include:

  • Response actions conducted by parties responsible for the contamination have been conducted properly at the majority (87%) of sites within the study area.
  • DEP identified 12 sites where response actions were found to be inadequate or behind schedule. Site conditions were evaluated at these locations and found not to pose risk to schools or nearby residents. DEP initiated enforcement actions in order to get the parties responsible for the cleanups back on schedule.
  • As a result of its enforcement efforts, DEP has raised the compliance rate to 96% and anticipates the remaining locations will return to compliance in the near future.

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