EPA joins cleanup of tainted Milton soil

Source: http://articles.boston.com, June 30, 2011
By: Johanna Seltz

Federal cleanup crews in protective gear are scheduled to start digging up contaminated soil from yards in a residential Milton neighborhood this week.

The work is the second phase of a project aimed at removing soil laced with lead and arsenic from state-owned land along the Neponset River and at 10 private homes on adjacent Capen Street.

Officials say the pollution doesn’t pose a health risk but needs to be removed to comply with state safety rules.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation started excavating on its property in mid-May, and expects to be done by mid-July. Contractors for the federal Environmental Protection Agency will begin the job at the private homes this week, according to Gary Lipson, who is coordinating the EPA work.

“It will be a little strange because we will be wearing respirators for the first few days, [as well as] the white suits, gloves, and booties,’’ Lipson said. “It’s strictly protocol. It doesn’t mean anybody is in any more danger than they ever have been.

“We kind of go overboard for the first few days until we make absolutely sure that we are not releasing any contaminants,’’ he said.

He expects the residential work to be done by August, unless heavy rains or extremely hot temperatures slow things down.

Ellen Courtney’s yard will be first. Workers will dig up a 20-foot square section to a depth of about a foot, Lipson said. They’ll test to be sure no contamination remains, bring in clean soil, and restore the area to its original appearance, he said.

Courtney — who has lived on Capen Street for 45 years, next door to the house where her husband, Frank, was born — said she is not worried about the contamination or the cleanup procedure in the middle of her lawn. “How can you fight it? It’s there, and they’re going to take care of it,’’ she said.

There’s even an upside, she said: “We don’t have to cut the grass this summer.’’

The state was looking for PCBs when it discovered the elevated levels of arsenic and lead in 2009 on its wooded property between Capen Street and the Neponset River. Testing of soil along Capen Street found hot spots in 10 yards.

Only two yards had levels of the metals that exceeded safety standards, according to the state, but the additional eight will be cleaned to err on the side of caution.

The source of the contamination is unclear.

The original thought was that it came from soil dropped along the banks of the river when it was dredged in the early 1960s. Another theory blames pesticide and herbicide spraying in the area, particularly for gypsy moths.

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