Alewife Study Group > W. R. Grace site > community feedback > Jul. 8 1996, Russell Field safety Search 

Russell Field safety
(near W. R. Grace site)

Letter To Robert Healy, Cambridge City Manager, July 8, 1996
Response Regarding the Safety of Russell Field

Dear Mr. Healy:

We were surprised and dismayed to hear you interpret neighborhood concern about their family's health as "hysteria or paranoia created by some people about the safety of Russell Field," at the June 24, City Council meeting. Dr. Spengler, the Harvard environmental consultant hired by the city, writes in his final report dated April 23, 1996, that " has been reported by community members and in file documentation. that contaminated excavate soil was stored on portions of the Russell Field property during excavation of the MBTA tunnel. Detailed information on the methods of excavation, materials handling, storage, and disposal has not been available for review. No information on the chemical nature of contamination in the excavated has been available. In addition, records of the reported offsite disposal (hazardous waste manifests), which are required by Federal and State regulations, have not been available for review {emphasis supplied}."

In fact, it is not clear that all the contaminated soil was removed. There is documentation (which we would be happy to show you) from the MBTA and the Environmental Impact Report that contaminated soil was stored and treated on Russell Field. There is also evidence that the contaminated soil was used as backfill at Alewife Station and Davis Sq. Station.

As Dr. Spengler noted, the manifests which would indicate how much contaminated soil was removed and where it was taken are missing--despite State and Federal requirements of "cradle to grave" record keeping . The contaminated soil may not have been removed, but covered over with clean fill. (The good news, of course, is that this clean fill might act as a buffer between any contaminated soil and children playing on the field.)

W. R. Grace's reputation also factors into our concern. Two nearby Grace sites, Acton and Woburn, are Superfund sites currently undergoing multi-million dollar mitigation actions. Moreover, the Grace corporation has demonstrated time and again that it prefers litigation to admitting responsibilty for contaminated soils on its site.

Dr. Spengler's report goes on, "Given the many areas of uncertainty {about Russell Field}, it is recommended that an environmental investigation of this area be conducted. This should include characterization of soils and groundwater."

If the city's expert is concerned enough to recommend a study shouldn't lay neighbors also be concerned? Basements located on the adjoining street, Clifton (as well as some other houses on nearby streets), routinely flood with water overflowing from Russell Field. If the subsoil or groundwater is contaminated, then the groundwater that floods our basements, may very well contaminate our homes. The prudent course is to follow Dr. Spengler's recommendations and test that land. Meantime, we very much hope that a comprehensive study of Russell Field's groundwater and soil proves the land safe and our health secure.

On behalf of all concerned North Cambridge residents, we respectfully request a meeting with you in order to hear your concerns and share ours. We thank you for your consideration and look forward to your response.

Signed by 67 Concerned North Cambridge Residents

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