W. R. Grace to Violate Asbestos Protection Ordinance? (2001)

W.R. Grace utility trench at 62 Whittemore Ave.
Alewife Study Group flyer

(Most of the text, plus a map, of one of two flyers hand-distributed to many North Cambridge homes on or about June 5, 2001.)


W.R. Grace (Grace) has issued a letter stating it will begin work on a utility trench excavation this Saturday, June 9, 2001, at its facilities on Whittemore Avenue in North Cambridge. The site of the excavation abuts Russell Field, the Linear Park and the Alewife MBTA Station. The proposed 5-foot wide trench will run the length of several buildings.

The soil on the Grace site has been shown to be heavily contaminated with asbestos fiber. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated last fall that the site posed no imminent hazard ONLY as long as the soil remained undisturbed. The excavation proposed by Grace to begin this weekend will disturb the soil and potentially release asbestos fibers into the air. Grace is already responsible for the nation’s most serious residential asbestos exposure, in Libby, Montana.

Grace submitted a plan for the excavation which fails to meet three requirements of the City of Cambridge Asbestos Protection Ordinance:

The Ordinance requires an area known to be contaminated with asbestos fiber to be contained in a tent during excavation and the air within the tent carefully filtered before release (called “tent and vent”), if the area is within 500 feet of residences or recreational areas. Grace’s plan does not include “tent and vent”.
The Ordinance requires Grace to notify area residents before the excavation. Grace has refused to notify most area residents.
The City required that Grace allow independent verification by the City that the standards in their plan are being met during excavation. Grace’s plan fails to allow independent verification by the City.

The Cambridge City Council unanimously voted Monday, June 4th to contact the EPA and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and ask those agencies to require Grace to STOP any excavation until Grace fully complies with the EPA’s and the DEP’s testing protocols, and the City’s Asbestos Protection Ordinance.


The only way to prevent release of asbestos through excavation on the Grace site is through agency enforcement. Please contact the following political and agency representatives listed on the back of this page BY FRIDAY JUNE 8TH to voice your concerns about the potential release of asbestos into the air in North Cambridge:


Michael Capuano, US House of Representatives 8th District
Cambridge 617-621-6208
Wash. D.C. 202-225-5111

Steven Tolman, Senator, Massachusetts State House 617-722-1280

Alice Wolf, Representative, Massachusetts State House 617-722-2070

Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Patricia Donohue, Northeast Coordinator 978-661-7730 Jack Miano, assigned to Grace site 978-661-7734

For more information or to join our efforts to preserve and enhance the quality of life in the North Cambridge neighborhood, contact Ronnie Millar of Alewife Study Group at 617-441-8956 Or see our website at

This North Cambridge site has been the headquarters for the Grace Construction Products division of W. R. Grace & Co.

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