MassDEP's South Framingham Project

An Environmental Justice initiative in South Framingham

Table of Contents

MassDEP Updates

Project Overview

As one of the agencies charged with ensuring that the underlying principles of the Commonwealth's Environmental Justice Policy are met, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's Northeast Regional Office is devoting a portion of its staff in Fiscal Year 2015 to focus on environmental issues in South Framingham, Massachusetts, and in particular, on impacts to Beaver Dam Brook which flows through South Framingham.  

South Framingham contains two census tracts that meet several criteria of Environmental Justice communities. Compared to the rest of the Town, South Framingham contains the greatest density of waste sites that have been identified and reported to MassDEP, as well as the greatest density of commercial facilities regulated by MassDEP for hazardous waste management and/or air emissions. It is hoped that by focusing on this area, particularly the areas in close proximity to Beaver Dam Brook, the sediment and water quality of Beaver Dam Brook and overall environmental quality of this portion of South Framingham may be improved.

MassDEP will be using staff from three of its programs to help address the environmental quality concerns in South Framingham. The primary activities to be undertaken as part of the initiative include overseeing the testing and cleanup at several significant waste sites in South Framingham (General Chemical, Mary Dennison Park, and Former Commonwealth Gas), auditing the results of prior testing and cleanup of additional waste sites along Beaver Dam Brook, compliance assistance for small businesses regulated by MassDEP for hazardous waste and air emissions, and wetlands inspections.

Commonwealth Gas Site Summary

Commonwealth Gas Site - South Framingham, MA

Current view of a commercially occupied area of the Commonwealth Gas Site - South Framingham, MA

The former Commonwealth Gas property, located at 350 Irving Street in South Framingham, Massachusetts, consists of approximately 22 acres of uplands and wetlands. A majority of the uplands is occupied by several commercial businesses associated with the storage and sale of landscaping materials, automobile storage, firewood cutting/storage, and heavy equipment storage.

Located in a mixed-use area, the property is bordered by wetlands, Beaver Dam Brook, and commercial and residential properties. An unnamed stream flows north through wetlands along the eastern edge of the property and discharges to Beaver Dam Brook. The Sudbury Aqueduct, an emergency back-up water supply system owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and operated by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, bisects the Site from roughly west to east. An active natural gas pipeline is located on the southern half of the property.

Historical Site Usage

The Site is a former manufactured gas plant (MGP) that produced gaseous hydrocarbon fuel from a combination of coal, coke, and oil feedstock from the late 1880's until approximately 1967. Tar processing facilities, which recycled some of the MGP by-products, also operated at the Site from at least the 1920's to the 1960's. Prior to development as an MGP, the Site was primarily wetlands. As was common practice before passage of the Wetlands Protection Act, a majority of the wetlands at the Site were filled with wastes and other materials as the MGP and tar processing facilities expanded.

The surrounding environment was polluted from leaks and spills associated with the former processing equipment/piping, and during the routine handling of raw materials and process residuals. While such practices are not allowed today, liquid wastes were discharged directly to the environment via settling and spray ponds located on the property, as well as to the wetlands and the unnamed stream on the eastern side of the property. Although a majority of the facility was dismantled in 1967, portions of former structures such as below-ground foundations, process equipment, and piping were never removed.


Testing conducted by Eversource between 2006 and 2009 detected the presence of petroleum and coal tar constituents, including cyanide (historically used to purify the manufactured gas prior to distribution), in soil, groundwater, wetlands sediments, and surface water. Coal tar, light oils, and/or tar-water mixtures were present in groundwater monitoring wells, test pits, and wetlands areas. Sediments containing coal tar constituents were also detected within Beaver Dam Brook at least 1,500 feet downstream of the former gas plant. In addition, inspections conducted by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority indicated the past infiltration of coal tar and coal tar constituents into the Sudbury Aqueduct.


Between 2010 and 2011, Eversource excavated 2,400 tons of coal tar-laden sediments from the unnamed stream to the north of the Sudbury Aqueduct and 177 tons of soil from two locations to the south of the aqueduct where elevated concentrations of cyanide were detected in shallow soils. In June 2011, Eversource submitted a Temporary Solution Statement to MassDEP, indicating that although contamination remained, commercial workers, customers, and trespassers could safely use the property.

MassDEP Audit

In September 2014, MassDEP notified Eversource of its intent to audit the Temporary Solution Statement submitted for the Site. In June 2015, MassDEP issued a Notice of Audit Findings/Notice of Noncompliance, determining that the extent of contamination had not been adequately defined, sources of contamination had not been fully contained or controlled, migration pathways had not been adequately assessed, and more data was needed to support the conclusions of the risk assessments. As a result of the Audit, MassDEP invalidated the Temporary Solution Statement for the Site and set deadlines for additional work to be conducted.

In July 2015, Eversource submitted a work plan for additional testing at the Site. Following a meeting with MassDEP representatives, Eversource submitted a revised work plan, which was conditionally approved by MassDEP on September 23, 2015. 

Additional Assessment Activities/Next Steps

On September 28-29, 2015, Eversource began the additional required testing activities by collecting samples within the mulch storage yard of Landscape Depot, a tenant at the Site, and digging test pits in the area of the Sudbury Aqueduct and the Former Open Tar Well near the property entrance on Irving Street. More comprehensive soil, groundwater, surface water, and sediment testing is planned to complete the required Site-wide supplemental assessment by the September 2016 deadline set by MassDEP.

By November 23, 2015, Eversource will begin further testing in the wetlands on the southeast portion of the Site to better determine the extent of contamination beyond their property line in this area. Results are expected before the end of the year.

Eversource has notified MassDEP of its intention to excavate coal tar-laden soil and waste debris from the Former Open Tar Well during the winter of 2015-2016. Eversource has also indicated its intent to conduct further removal of coal tar wastes within the southern wetland, and to address the coal tar in shallow soils on the southern portion of the Site as part of future response actions.

In addition, Eversource has posted "No Trespassing" signs to warn any trespassers that the property is a Disposal Site regulated by MassDEP.

Additional Resources

Mary Dennison Park Site Summary

One of three ball fields at Mary Dennison Park, South Framingham, MA

One of three ball fields at Mary Dennison Park, South Framingham, MA

Mary Dennison Park, located on Beaver Street in South Framingham, Massachusetts is comprised of approximately 15 acres of predominantly open grassy space containing three ball fields, a soccer field, a volley ball court area, basketball courts, and two small playground areas. The park is surrounded by residential homes and commercial properties. Beaver Dam Brook runs in a northerly direction along its eastern edge. The open space park is a scarce asset for an area of Framingham that has experienced a disproportionate share of environmental burdens resulting from a long history of industrialization since the 1800's.


The park was constructed in various stages beginning in 1960 on land acquired from Dennison Manufacturing Company (now Avery Dennison Corporation) that had been utilized as a burn dump from at least the mid-1920's through approximately 1947. Historical records also show that Dennison allowed the Town of Framingham to dump municipal wastes at the property. Although the re-use of a closed dump for public recreation is not an uncommon practice, contaminants present in the waste materials can pose a health risk to those using the park if the buried waste is not covered in a manner that prevents park users from coming into contact with the contaminated materials.


In February 2014, during planning efforts associated with potential park upgrades, the Town of Framingham notified MassDEP of the presence of metals, such as lead, in park soils. This triggered State requirements to conduct additional testing to determine the extent of contamination and whether the contamination was present in surficial soils that park users might come into contact with.

Comprehensive sampling of park soils conducted by the Town of Framingham and Avery Dennison Corporation showed that lead and polyaromatic hydrocarbons are the predominant contaminants of concern at the playground. The contamination was generally identified below the soil cover amid the buried waste materials. However, lead was detected within surface soils at concentrations determined to pose a short term risk to children using the park at two locations: the Eastern Playground along Beaver Street and an area located adjacent to the brook within the soccer playing field. The lead levels caused MassDEP to require Immediate Response Actions to ensure that park users did not come into contact with the topsoil in these two areas.

Immediate Response Actions – Eastern Playground and Soccer Field

The Town of Framingham and Avery Dennison Corporation took the immediate required measures to restrict access to the Eastern Playground and the portion of the soccer playing field where elevated levels of lead were identified by installing chain link fencing and posting warning signs in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

On October 13, 2015, soil treatment and removal of the lead-contaminated topsoil within the Eastern Playground and soccer field were initiated. Upon removal of the soil, both areas will be temporarily restored with one to two feet of clean soil and/or wood chips so that use of these areas of the park can be resumed by the community while a longer term overall cleanup plan (which may include capping and/or removal of soil) is developed.

Next Steps

In addition to the Immediate Response Actions being conducted to address elevated levels of lead at two locations in the park, an Initial Site Investigation Report was completed on February 25, 2015. MassDEP is working with the Town of Framingham and Avery Dennison Corporation to complete the rest of the testing that is needed at the park before the cleanup plan can be prepared. Progress on completing these next steps will be posted on MassDEP's website for South Framingham as they occur.

Additional Resources

General Chemical Closure and Cleanup Information

Installing MIP12-8 downgradient of warehouse on GCC facility

Installing MIP12-8 downgradient of warehouse on GCC facility

2012, General Chemical Corp. (GCC) has stopped accepting hazardous waste deliveries to its facility at 133 Leland Street in Framingham, emptied its storage buildings and tanks of waste materials, dismantled all waste tanks, submitted a detailed plan for closing, and conducted a variety of activities to decontaminate all hazardous waste storage structures. On April 8, 2014, MassDEP accepted GCC's certification of facility closure.

More information is available in MassDEP's General Chemical Information Archives

Additional Resources

Resources for Auto Recyclers

Resources for Hazardous Waste Generators

South Framingham Waste Sites and Reportable Releases

Search for sites by release tracking number, site name, address, status, and/or chemical type. Results include lists of site actions, maps, and links to both electronically submitted and scanned documents.

Commonwealth Gas
350 Irving Street - RTN* 3-589

Mary Dennison Park
Overall assessment and cleanup - RTN* 3-32015

Eastern Playground
Mary Dennison Park - RTN* 3-32430

Soccer field adjacent to Beaver Dam Brook
Mary Dennison Park - RTN* 3-32672

Look up other sites

*Site Release Tracking Numbers (RTNs) & Site Status

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