Asbestos Other Contaminants

Asbestos Used in Manufacturing at the W. R. Grace Site

Asbestos Used in Manufacturing at W. R. Grace site
(formerly Dewey and Almy Chemical Co.)

November 12, 1997

David B. Struhs
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Executive Office of Environmental Affairs
Department of Environmental Protection
Metropolitan Boston – Northeast Regional Office

Dear Commissioner Struhs:

It has come to the attention of members of the North Cambridge community that the history of chemical processing and production by W. R. Grace at the 62 Whittemore Avenue facility provided by Haley and Aldrich for their client W. R. Grace (RTN #3-0277) in their Environmental Data Report is substantially incomplete. It is clear from historical records that extensive manufacture of asbestos friction products occurred at this facility, but nowhere in any data assessment submitted by W. R. Grace to the DEP, including their multi-volume environmental data assessment completed in 1988, is there any mention of such activity and no field testing for asbestos has ever been done. The purpose of this letter to request that the Phase II of this site be re-opened and that additional and extensive soil sampling and analysis for asbestos be conducted at the Whittemore Avenue site.

Asbestos friction products were manufactured at the 62 Whittemore Avenue facility under ownership and operation by Dewey and Almy
Documentation attached to this communication establishes that asbestos friction products were manufactured at the Whittemore Ave. facility at least from 1929 through 1936. This time corresponds to the period during which Dewey and Almy (acquired by W. R. Grace in 1954) purchased and operated the Multibestos Plant at Walpole, Massachusetts
(see document #1: Moody’s Index – 1929-1936).

The Walpole site (known formally as the Blackburn and Union Privileges Superfund Site – Cerclis # MAD 9082191363) is on the National Priorities List (NPL) and is completely fenced and secured to prevent any pubic access due primarily to substantial asbestos contamination. During the period 1929 – 1936 and beyond, both the Walpole facility and the facility at 62 Whittemore Ave. Cambridge, were the subject of special attention by the Department of Labor and Industries Division of Occupation Hygiene (see communication # 2) due to a high incidence of asbestosis complaints resulting in both multiple person workman’s compensation claims and related legal actions
(see communication # 3).

Ownership and operation of the Multibestos Corp. by Dewey and Almy, (and after 1954 by W. R. Grace), is further demonstrated by verifying statements from both Charles Almy (then Vice President of Dewey and Almy), and Bradley Dewey (President) in the Harvard Class of 1908 Twenty-fifth Anniversary Report (see documentation #4).

Specific asbestos friction products manufactured
Hervey Elkins (Harvard Class of 1928) then a recent graduate of the Harvard School of Public Health and eventually Director of the Division of Occupational Hygiene, under the supervision of his predecessor, Manfred Bowditch, described his visit to the Whittemore Avenue facility and made the following observation:

“Certain brake linings, especially those for heavy work, are made from asbestos to which carbon black and other substances may be added, and rubber latex. The various materials are mixed in a paper beating machine, spread on a wire screen and the water sucked out, then pressed in a hydraulic press, cured and brought to the proper thickness with a sanding machine.”
(see page three ‘Notes on visit to Dewey & Almy Chemical Co., on November 27, 1934 and December 11, 1934 and to Multibestos Company, Walpole, on November 28, 1934″ ; document # 2).

Additionally, it appears that the Cambridge plant may also have manufactured clutch facings as the AR dope (coal tar pitch in toluol) used to impregnate the clutch facings was produced there. The manufacturing stage is described by Dr. Elkins as the process which produces the highest level of Asbestos particulate. It should also be noted that the intensity of the manufacturing protocol at the Whittemore Avenue facility required that the processing equipment be purged on a regular basis. Older neighbors recollect that this phenomenon was so intrusive that it would require residents living nearby to shut their windows when the whistles blew to prevent dust from settling in their homes. In addition to the included information, verbal descriptions from neighbors confirm that manufacture of asbestos-based friction products was a substantial part of the Dewey & Almy operation at the Whittemore Avenue facility during the thirties.

Request for additional and extensive soil sampling and analysis for asbestos
Given the problems encountered at the Multibestos site in Walpole with respect to random and improper disposal of large volumes of asbestos waste product resulting in Superfund designation during the same period, we respectfully request that:

  • additional and extensive soil sampling and analysis for asbestos be required immediately of the PRP.
  • the regulatory status and potential risks posed by the site be reevaluated.
  • a full and forthright accounting of this matter be provided.

The Principal Responsible Party is aware of at least some of these facts
There is evidence that the PRP is aware of at least some of these facts. In a deposition conducted on September 17, 1996 (see document # 5), Bradley Dewey Jr., son of Bradley Dewey, president and co-founder of the Dewey and Almy Company, acknowledged that “everything that had been Dewey and Almy was moved into W. R. Grace … the entire company, all the facilities, all the records, all the property of whatever nature” (p.58). In that same deposition, Dewey Jr. admits that he “knew that Dewey and Almy had been in the brake lining business” and that “brake linings included asbestos” (p.24 and 27). In the same deposition (p.26), Dewey Jr. identifies photographs of the Dewey and Almy facility at 62 Whittemore Avenue with a fleet of Multibestos Motorized Brake Service Institute vans in the parking lot of the facility.

Additional evidence was provided by Susan M. Cooke, of the law firm Goodwin, Proctor, and Hoar, representing W. R. Grace and Co. Ms. Cooke submitted substantial comments during the public comment period for August 22 to September 21, 1994 regarding the preliminary public health assessment for the Walpole site. Knowledge of the Multibestos and Whittemore Avenue operation (manufacture of asbestos friction products) had to have been common company knowledge for the previous three years if not for the previous sixty years.

Required disclosure by the Licensed Site Professional
There is comprehensive body of case law regarding when a party knew or should have known of environmental violations. There is a significant body of law describing how knowledge held by individual members of a corporation can be imputed to the organization itself when applying the “knew or should have known” standard. The actions and statements by W. R. Grace and /or predecessors or agents clearly meet these standards, leaving no doubt that this PRP knew or should have known of the potential for asbestos contamination and had an affirmative duty to act accordingly. It is our understanding that the Licensed Site Professional (LSP) assigned to the Whittemore Avenue site is required to disclose all pertinent facts regarding these circumstances. The Rule of Professional Conduct, 309 CMR Section 4.03 (5) (c) state that:

“a licensed site professional shall make a good faith and reasonable effort to identify and obtain the relevant and material facts, data, reports and other information evidencing conditions at a site that his or her client possesses or that is otherwise readily available, and identify and obtain such additional data and other information as he or she deems necessary to discharge his or her professional obligations under M.G.L. 21A # 19 through 19J, and 309 CMR.”

Requested action by W. R. Grace
If laypersons concerned about the past practices at this site can access this information with relative ease, it seems only fair that the PRP be required to provide the abutting public a fuller and more candid description of the manufacturing operation in their environmental assessment.

Given the significant data gaps created by the PRP’s not having analyzed the site for asbestos contamination, we respectfully request that W. R. Grace through their LSP provide a full accounting for this apparent omission and implement a plan for appropriate field-testing for asbestos. If there is any way that this neighborhood can be of further assistance in this matter, please let us know. Representatives of the Alewife Study Group will call you within ten days to two weeks of your receipt of this letter to discuss these issues.

Submitted on behalf of the Alewife Study Group,

Craig A. Kelley, Esq.
6 St. Gerard Terrace
Cambridge, MA 02140

David H. Bass, Sc.D., CHMM
23 Norris St.
Cambridge, MA 02140

Joseph J. Joseph
20 Columbus Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

Cambridge City Council
John DeVillars, U.S. EPA
Karen Stromberg, DEP
David Wightman, W. R. Grace Co.
Wesley Stimson, LSP
State Senator Warren Tolman
State Representative Alice Wolf
State Senator Robert Havern