FAQ: Massachusetts’ Approach to Waste Site Cleanup, by Dept of Environmental Protection

Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MA-DEP) classifies the former W. R. Grace site as a Tier IC hazardous waste site. There are 3 tiers of hazardous waste sites. Sites with the most contamination are classified Tier I.

Because Tier I sites are the most contaminated, DEP (rather than the property owner) oversees any clean up of those sites. Below is MA-DEP’s fact sheet about how clean up works.

MA-DEP’s deems a site cleanup complete only when a condition of “No Significant Risk of harm to health, safety, public welfare, or the environment is achieved or demonstrated.”

Because asbestos does not degrade, migrate, burn or dissolve, and because the former W. R. Grace site has literally tons of loose fiber asbestos buried in its soil, the site remains a risk to public health. It is not clean.

The good news? So long as the asbestos stays buried in the soil, there is no risk to human health. The asbestos cannot get kicked up by wind and into human lungs.

There are two ways to “clean up” asbestos: cover it (with three feet of soil) or truck it away. If it is trucked away, there is risk associated with each truckload and the asbestos is moved to another dump,  often located in a poorer community.

*”Public Information and Involvement – To be successful, cleanups must address the concerns of the communities in which they are located. Local officials, residents, businesses, environmental groups, and others need to be satisfied with a cleanup, since they will live and work with the results.” MA-DEP “encourages citizens to participate in the process of investigating and cleaning up contaminated properties and requires the person performing the cleanup to provide specific opportunities to participate.”

*Source: p. 4, of MA-DEP Fact Sheet: Massachusetts’ Approach to Waste Cleanup: Chapter 21E and the Massachusetts Contingency Plan