Contact: Eben Burnham-Snyder, Rep. Ed Markey, 202-225-2836

Lawmaker held hearings more than three decades ago on contamination at Woburn toxic dump sites

WASHINGTON (February 27, 2013) – Rep. 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, today welcomed the announcement by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that Pharmacia Corporation and Bayer CropScience Inc. have paid the $4.25 million settlement in natural resources damages caused by hazardous contamination at the Industri-plex site in Woburn, Massachusetts.

“Decades ago, after nearly a century’s worth of toxic materials accumulated in dump sites in Woburn, families saw their children die too soon from leukemia, and entire blocks of the city were too dangerous for work or habitation,” said Rep. Markey. “Today, with this payment, we are writing the final chapter of redemption for Woburn. This payment is a testament to the tireless efforts of Anne Anderson, Reverend Bruce Young, and the families that forced the federal government and polluters to clean up this site.

“After a century when the health and environment of this precious watershed and community were degraded, this payment will engender a new century of beauty and health around the Aberjona River, the Mystic Lakes, and the Woburn community at large,” continued Rep. Markey.

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.