Alewife Study Group > W. R. Grace site > July 16 1996, technical assistance grant application Search 

Alewife Study Group
- Technical Assistance Grant Application

For the W. R. Grace site, North Cambridge Massachusetts 02140

Highlights of report:
General Information
Description of Proposal
Schedule for Technical Assistance
Community Concerns
Planned Community Outreach Efforts
Budget for TAG Grant

Name of Group: Alewife Study Group
Name of Group Contact: Craig A. Kelley
DEP Site Name: W. R. Grace Site
Site Identification Number/Release Tracking Number: RTN: 3-0277
Site Tier Classification: Tier II, Phase III
Site Address: 62 Whittimore Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140


1. There have been no changes to the information provided in our Letter of Intent.

2. There are approximately 3,000 households, numbering roughly 10,000 residents, in the North Cambridge area affected by the site. There are four very large (750-plus units total) public housing developments close to the site, and several smaller, but still sizable, apartment buildings in the vicinity. The public housing have a variety of tenants groups, while all of the community is served by both the North Cambridge Stabilization Committee (NCSC) and the North Cambridge Crime Task Force (NCCTF).

The tenants groups are more focused on direct tenant issues such as crime, poor lighting and services. Their members will note, however, that backfill from the Grace site area has killed plants in or near their developments and has even poisoned basement areas, in addition to accelerating the physical deterioration of structures that come into contact with the hazardous fill.

The NCSC is a neighborhood group founded to keep North Cambridge neighborhoods livable and has, for years, expressed its concerns that the problems involving hazardous material at the W. R. Grace site have not been adequately addressed. NCSC members have testified before the Cambridge City Council, submitted formal comments on MEPA documents and written numerous letters to state and local officials concerning hazardous waste issues at the Grace site. The NCCTF is focused solely on crime issues and as such is only concerned that development at the site not increase crime in the neighborhood.

Individuals throughout North Cambridge are affected by the site to varying degrees. Immediate abutters and other nearby residents face, at least from anecdotal evidence, a higher degree of cancer risk than residents who live further away. One street near the site had five women who had lived on the nine-house street die of cancer well before their expected lifetimes. Many of these individuals may be exposed to the site s hazardous waste through migration of potentially contaminated groundwater from the site onto their properties (many nearby residences flood on a regular basis). All of them would be exposed to fumes and contaminated dust wafting through their residences from any construction carried out on this site if it is not properly remediated first, in addition to being exposed to contaminated dust and pollen that swirls through the area on just a typical summer s day.

Individuals who live further away still suffer from fumes and dust, although not to as great an extent as the closer neighbors. These individuals, along with their closer brethren, will be at risk from any improperly handled soil removed from the site and transported through, or possibly deposited in, their neighborhoods.

Workers on the site, if it is not properly remediated, will suffer the same headaches and other ailments that plagued the workers who constructed the Red Line extension through the area and still, apparently, plaque MBTA workers near the site.

3. Absolutely everyone who wishes to be involved in our project can become involved, to whatever extent they wish. We have held, and continue to hold, well publicized meetings throughout the community. Our open Core Group consists of representatives from the public housing units, apartment buildings, owner/occupied residences, long-term tenants, abutters, people who live further away and just about any other permutation of a local, although we continue to try to increase our representation in the African-American community through fliers and aggressive personal recruitment.

We have three tiers of volunteers, open to anyone. The first tier is the Core Group, numbering approximately 25 people who are willing to come to regular meetings and to help tackle specific projects such as assisting with outreach or conducting regulatory research. The second tier, numbering approximately 75 people, consists of those people who want to be called for, and will generally show up at, important City Council meetings, advisory committee meetings, public hearings and the like. The third tier, numbering in the hundreds, are those residents who want their names to be used to give additional power through numbers to the more active and vocal members.

Constant flyering, press releases and public meetings, as well as ever-present word of mouth advertising, ensure that our activities are known to any members of the community who take even a slight interest in local events.

4. The Alewife Study Group has no bylaws.


1. a) The overall goal of this project is to get an independent, objective analysis of the environmental risks(s) to the neighborhood from contamination at this site and to communicate these risks and potential solutions to neighborhood residents and City officials in such a manner that everyone, including the PRP and potential developers, feel comfortable that their voices have been heard and their concerns addressed in a professional, responsive fashion.

b) The primary issue to be addressed is the concern that neighbors have about contamination remaining on the site of this former chemical manufacturing plant. Neighbors need to get an objective, unbiased opinion on how much of a threat contamination at the site poses. The mountains of existing data over which neighbors have pored raise serious questions about just how much hazardous waste was removed from the site, where it went, how much hazardous waste is left on the site, and, perhaps most importantly, how thoroughly the site owners conducted their site assessments.

c) We will conduct the following activities:

d) The following products will be produced:

e) The projected schedule for completing the project is as follows:

Editor's Note: The actual schedule will be based on when funds are received from the State DEP.

2. We do not clearly understand the current or planned response actions at this site. Our confusion on this matter is part of the reason we are requesting a Technical Assistance Grant. We have formally asked the LSP, the site owner, the would-be developer and the state for answers regarding the last response actions at this site and still cannot get clear answers and documentation as to what was done, who did it and to where the hazardous waste was supposedly removed. It is our belief that the site owner only plans to remove the soil around some former underground storage tanks, although these remediation plans might expand if excavation is required for any development. (Note: avoiding the excavation of hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of contaminated material was tolled as a virtue by one would-be developer as recently as early 1996. Why that excavation is not independently planned as a response action is not clear.)

3. The proposed project will address the impacts of this site in two ways:

4. Community concerns about this site focus primarily around the dangers posed by hazardous wastes deposited on the site. Anecdotal evidence of high cancer rates in the neighborhoods near the site, sick workers during excavation activities on the site and complaints among people who currently work in the MBTA tunnels on the site have made nearby residents, especially the many families with young children, more aware that they may be sitting on a toxic bomb. Community concerns are also fueled by the lack of documentation that hazardous wastes were ever actually removed from the site and by conflicting official memorandums about how and where hazardous waste from the site was stored in the area.

Our group identified these concerns through analyzing scores of written comments collected at one of our first public meetings and through listening to countless neighbors tell their cancer stories or talk about the huge chemical production facilities and waste lagoons on or near the site. Additionally, other neighbors have contacted us individually, frequently through the points of contact listed on all of our fliers as well as through more informal neighborhood grapevines. Neighbors have also voiced their concerns at City Council meetings, at site Advisory Committee meetings and at public hearings, all of which have been attended by many members of the ASG. Finally, we have recently finished mailing and collating a survey of over 2000 residences we believe to be impacted to some degree by the site, providing us even more detailed information on community concerns.

5. When our project is completed we will have an Action Plan that addresses hazardous waste issues at the site that the neighbors can trust. It will be a plan that explains to everyone, in multiple languages, how the PRP and/or other entities can and should conduct remediation actions to best protect the health of the neighborhood. With this plan, the rumors and speculations, confusion and obfuscation will be ended, replaced with irrefutable, documented facts, statements and proposals.

6. The results/products of this project will be distributed on a frequent and regular basis in the following manner:

7. The site is not located in an Economic Target Area.

8. a) We have held, and will continue to hold, numerous meetings to educate and involve as many individuals and groups affected by the site as possible. All meetings will be open to the public and publicized as described in #10 below. We will hold at least one each of the following types of meetings. We will hold additional meetings if warranted.

b) Design, distribution, tabulation, analysis, and presentation of results of the neighborhood survey: The survey will be distributed by the most appropriate means available. Our winter 1996 survey was included as an insert in a targeted 2,750 copies of The North Cambridge News, a newspaper mailed to every household in the neighborhood free of charge.

9. The above activities and events will increase public awareness of disposal site response actions and issues by providing many opportunities for members of the public to:

10. We will use means of publicity developed in the past year since our group came into existence:

11. Activities will probably occur in the order listed in #8(a). The first meeting will occur within a few weeks after we are approved to commence TAG activities. Large public meetings will occur approximately once a month. However, availability of experts and timing of relevant studies will affect our meeting schedule.

Activities will occur at locations that we have found in the past year to bet he most accessible to interested individuals and groups. All of these locations are in the neighborhood near the site:

12. The project will improve involvement in the clean up process by advocating for a more accurate and detailed scoring procedure/Tier ranking and by continuing an already comprehensive outreach to affected residents. Thus far, numerous meetings, a survey distributed to 2,750 households, a city-sponsored advisory group review process and repeated permit review activities have all contributed to create a better public understanding of relevant issues. These several activities would be expanded-- along with an additional, more detailed survey(s)-- and continued until the formulation of a meaningful action plan has been accomplished.

13. The audience reached by this process will be the entire neighborhood (approximately 3,000 households) and all involved municipal, state and federal agencies. Thus far, we have compiled a calling list of nearly 300 people and an address database of over 700 involved residents.

14. The specific needs of participants concerned with this disposal site that can be met are several. The site has never been tested and assessed independently of the property owner or proposed developers. Many serious questions still exist regarding the status and location of hot spots, sludge removal and potential contamination of abutting properties. A TAG grant would provide the additional technical resources necessary to organize and coordinate existing and future activities.

Specific needs that a TAG grant allocation could fulfill would include oversight of information access to a wider audience and improved information relating to ongoing monitoring alternatives subsequent to actual testing and assessments.

15. a. The proposed project would encourage and assist participation by the public in the review and planning stages of response actions at the disposal site by:

B. People will be kept involved and interested in the project because the ASG will ensure, as it has already done for previous questionnaires and surveys, that each and every response is recorded and considered. Participants will know that not only has their voice been heard, but it has been recorded for posterity. People will stay involved, as they have been for the past year, because they will realize that their voices are important and that they, individually, are helping to make a difference in addressing the hazardous waste threat to their community.

16. Current public involvement with this site began just prior to August of 1995. Prior to this date, the North Cambridge community had been significantly involved through the activities of the Toxic Alert group (during MBTA construction @ 1979) and the North Cambridge Stabilization Committee (during the 1986-87 MEPA process for a proposed office park at this site). During August of 1995, the Alewife Study Group held a community meeting at the W. R. Grace Co. Cafeteria on the site. Approximately 150 people attended and expressed strong concern about environmental issues, including consumption of wetlands, maintenance of the flood plain and the condition of hazardous waste on the site. At every possible public forum, and in numerous memorandums to the DEP, the Alewife Study Group has asked questions, given its opinion and otherwise made its voice heard regarding actions at this site.

17. The ASG has done everything from individual door-knocking to talking to people at community gardens to posting fliers to getting press coverage in order to expand involvement of people directly affected by the site. We have been phenomenally successful, as evidenced by the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of signatures we have gotten for our various petitions and letters. It is not an exaggeration to say that one would be hard-pressed to find an abutter, or even a neighbor, to the site who does not know whom to contact from the ASG to get an answer to a question about the site.

18. Communication with the public and other interested parties will be by large and small-scale meetings, fliers, press releases, Cambridge Cable TV (i.e.- What s up North? ), distribution of meeting minutes, feature stories in local papers and, not the least important, word of mouth. In certain circumstances, such as when looking for specific documentation, communication will be via targeted mailings and/or phone calls.

19. Our group will continue to utilize the above mentioned avenues to promote dialogue among residents, affected businesses and public officials. Businesses and public officials have thus far been very helpful with these activities. All of our documents, complete with contact points, are provided to all parties, and all parties are specifically invited to participate in the public process and join the dialogue regarding the site.

20. The Alewife Study Group has, and continues to, encouraged public dialogue with the PRP concerning all aspects of the site. In fact, our first major meeting was actually held on the site, with the assistance of the PRP. We have ensured that the LSP received copies of every relevant document that we have submitted to any public agency, generally with a cover letter noting that we look forward to working with the PRP/LSP on the noted issues. Similarly, we copy furnish the proposed developer of the site with all relevant documents and attend all relevant public hearings (i.e.- permit hearings at the Planning Board).

1. Expenses:
Hydrologist (40 hrs @ $50/hr)2000
Environmental engineer (36 hours @ $50/hour)1800
Epidemiology researcher (30 hours @ $60/hour)1800
Translators (40 hours @ $20/hour)800
Survey takers (4 - 40 hours ea. @ $10/hour)1600
Data entry workers (2 - 20 hours ea. @ $10/hour)400
Desktop publisher (10 hours @ $25/hour)250
Computer consultant (5 hours @ $25/hour)125
Printing & copying1600
Paper & other office supplies 150

TAG grant$10,000
ASG fundraising event 300
In kind labor donation775

a) The hydrologist will conduct a study of groundwater flow at the site of the proposed development, analyze the data, and present the findings to members of the ASG. The environmental engineer will review existing site data and monitor new data collection, and present the findings to members of the ASG. The Epidemiology researcher will design a neighborhood health survey and interpret the data collected. The computer consultant will design a database for health survey data input, analysis, and reporting. The desktop publisher will design and prepare a report of the findings (in newsletter format) for neighbor-hood distribution.

b) Technical advisors will submit summary reports of their findings to members of the ASG and be available at neighborhood-wide meetings, as well as meetings of the Cambridge City Council and/or other City officials, to discuss their findings.

2. Background & qualifications of consultants
Technical advisors (hydrologist, environmental engineer, and Epidemiology researcher) would be required to have graduate degrees in their respective fields and a minimum of five years of relevant professional experience. In addition, these consultants would have demonstrated ability to communicate technical data in an accessible way for laypeople (neighborhood residents), both in written materials and in oral presentations.

3. Items to be purchased: various office supplies such as paper, envelopes, etc.
Hourly rates were calculated using a composite of rates quoted in various environmental contracts with which ASG volunteers are familiar and verbal quotes by environmental professionals.

4. Total estimated budget $10,700

5. Total grant request: $10,000

6. Accountability

The ASG will hold twice monthly meetings to discuss the progress of the project and review goals, achievements, and future plans. These meetings will be accompanied by an agenda and reported in detailed minutes, which will be available for all ASG members and anyone else associated with the project. Because ASG members include people who are very familiar with Massachusetts and federal environmental programs, environmental issues at the site and bookkeeping, the group will be able to provide constant oversight of experts employed via the TAG program. This volunteer oversight and instruction will be crucial in bringing TAG funded personnel up to speed on relevant environmental and community issues in a minimal amount of time.

7. Other resources
The ASG membership includes neighborhood residents who have pledged to volunteer their time and expertise for this project, including individuals with expertise in desktop publishing and database design. In addition, ASG members will help distribute reports and announcements of meetings, and put together mailings with project updates. In essence, the ASG has already developed the backbone of the project, and needs only di minimis additional funding and resources, besides a Technical Assistance Grant, to make this project work.


I certify that all information in this application is true to the best of my knowledge.
TITLE: Chair, Environmental Section, Alewife Study Group

DATE: July 19, 1996

Contact the Alewife Study Group, North Cambridge Massachusetts, by email at