United States
                   Environmental Protection
                               Enforcement and
                               Compliance Assurance
                               (2201 A)
EPA 520-F-95-005
    Summer 1996
Superfund  At  Work
Hazardous Waste Cleanup Efforts Nationwide
         W.R. Grace
         Site Profile
 Site Description: 260 acres in
 Acton, Massachusetts

 Primary Contaminants: Vinylidene
 chloride, benzene, ethyl benzene,
 vinyl chloride, and bis(-2 ethylhexyl)

 Potential Range of Health Effects:
 Increased risk of cancer, central
 nervous system disorders

 Nearby Population: 20,000 people

 Ecological Concerns: The Assabet
 River ecosystem; Sinking Pond and

 Year Listed on NPL: 1983

 EPA Region: 1

 Congressional District: 5
 Building consensus entailed hard work, patience, and trust.
            Success in Brief

            Partnership Produces

            Measureable Results
              Public support for environmental protection has grown over the past 25
            years because of tangible results. Government and industry have made
            noteworthy progress in all areas partly because of corporate accountability
            bolstered by effective enforcement of laws and regulations.
              Sometimes traditional controls give way to new strategies that take
            advantage of individual stewardship and voluntary action.  When federal
            and state agencies work together with private companies and citizens,
            everyone has a voice. The faceless bureaucrats in business, industry, or
            government are no different from the people affected by a hazardous
            waste site: real men and women who raise children, go to work, and pay
            taxes. The same people who worked at the factory that caused the con-
            tamination, shop at the local grocery store. In the end, everyone has the
            same interest and working together is the only solution.
              An example of a successful partnership was the one forged between the
            U.S.  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Massachusetts Depart-
            ment of Environmental Protection (MADEP), the W.R. Grace Company,
            and the citizens and local government of Acton, MA.  Town officials and
            local residents were heavily involved in the blueprint for cleanup at the
            site.  Company representatives signed agreements that would span more
                                       than 15 years.  EPA and MADEP learned
                                       important lessons in the value of public
                                       perspective. Alert citizens became
                                       versed in the topics of hazardous waste,
                                       ground water, air quality, and innova-
                                       tive technology.  Most importantly, the
                                       environment now sustains a larger
                                       population of species for the greater
                                       cause of biodiversity.

                                       The Site  Today

                                          The aquifer restoration system in-
                                       stalled by W.R. Grace in 1985 continues
                                       operating to reduce contaminant levels
                                       in ground water to federal standards.
                                       Excavation of 12 areas for a series of
                                       innovative soil treatments is under way
                                       in anticipation of the landfill cap con-
                                       struction. Treated wastes are scheduled
                                       to be capped in an on-site landfill during

                       Superfund At Work    W.R. Grace Site, Acton. MA
                                                        Summer 1996
  About 25 miles west of
Boston, the W.R. Grace site
extends over 260 acres of
Acton, Massachusetts. The
property is flanked in part by
Fort Pond Brook and the
Assabet River.  A dozen
schools, a nursing home,
and 190 private homes
are within two  miles of
the site boundaries.
Approximately 20,000
people live in the Town
of Acton.
  The W.R. Grace Company
owned and operated a fac-
tory here since  1954, produc-
ing sealing compounds, latex
products, and battery separa-
tors. Prior to that, the site
had been the location of
other chemical  companies
that produced sealants for
rubber containers, latex
                           A  Site Snapshot

                            products, plasticizers, and
                            resins. Past disposal practices
                            at the facility resulted in exten-
                            sive soil, sediment, and ground
                            water contamination.
                            cals includ-
  W.R. Grace Site
Acton, Massachusetts
                            ing vinylidene
                            chloride (VDC),
                            benzene, and other volatile
                            organic compounds (VOCs)
                            leached from on-site landfills
                            and unlined lagoons into the
                            ground water.  Two Acton
                            water supply wells, Assabet #1
                            and #2, are within a quarter
                            mile of the site  to the south-
west. Surface water from
Sinking Pond on the site feeds
into the ground water aquifer
that is the source for Assabet
Wells #1 and #2, supplying 40
      percent of Acton's
      drinking water.
        The main contami-
      nant, VDC, is a sus-
pected carcinogen and has
been shown to cause central
   nervous system dysfunc-
   tions. Some water samples
   revealed VDC concentra-
   tions in excess of 100 parts
  per billion (ppb); federal
standards define acceptable
levels as less  than 7 ppb.  To
illustrate the  potency of this
chemical, seven parts per
billion are comparable to
seven kernels of corn in a
filled, 45-foot silo, 16 feet in
W.R. Grace Site
                     AWD settlement for $2.5 million
                     Landfill and lagoon closure plan designed
                                                     W.R. Grace installs pump-and-treat system
                                                     Air strippers installed
                                                    EPA includes site on NPL
                     AWD reopens the wells with a carbon filtration system A
               MADEP orders W.R. Grace to cease disposal
               Consent decree signed
               Congress enacts Superfund

        Citizen group forms
        Two new drinking water wells open

   Acton Water District takes
   water samples       X
   Assabet wells #1 and #2 N
   W.R. Grace begins

                        Superfund At Work   W.R. Grace Site, Acton, MA    Summer 1996
        Past Disposal Practices Jeopardize Drinking Water
  Since 1954, three separate
divisions of W.R. Grace have
operated here, producing
sealing compounds, latex prod-
ucts, and battery separators. In
the early days, wastewater from
manufacturing operations went
untreated into a series of un-
lined lagoons on the site. Over
time, chemicals in the effluent
seeped into the ground, unde-
tectable for more than 20 years.
Because of the proximity of the
facility to the town water sup-
ply wells, the Acton Water
District (AWD) sampled the
nearby ground water and wells
in 1978. The samples revealed
the presence of VDC and ben-
zene in two of Acton's water
supply wells.
                    The discovery of contamina-
                  tion in the drinking water
                  supply prompted the Town of
                  Acton to close the wells. By
                  1979, the town had opened new
                  wells to replace Assabet #1 and
                  #2.  The Town of Acton and the
                  Massachusetts Department of
                  Environmental Protection
                  (MADEP) began investigating
                  W.R. Grace's waste disposal
                  practices to determine the
                  extent of contamination in the
                  municipal well field. Based on
                  the findings, MADEP issued an
                  order to W.R. Grace in July,
                  1980 to cease waste disposal
                  practices and conduct a full site
                  remediation program. The
                  company complied with the
                  state order, and by 1980 all
                                     organic chemical operations at
                                     the site had ceased.

                                     Pre-Superfund Settlement
                                     Reduces Aquifer Contamina-
                                       In October 1980, two months
                                     prior to the passage of Super-
                                     fund, EPA and W.R. Grace
                                     signed an agreement called a
                                     consent decree which outlined a
                                     framework for cleanup.  The
                                     company agreed to fully restore
                                     the Sinking Pond aquifer and to
                                     design a phased cleanup pro-
                                     gram for on-site waste disposal
                                     areas. The consent decree also
                                     directed W.R. Grace to conduct
                                     investigations on the nature and
                                     extent of ground water contami-
                                                    Continued on page 4
     < Public hearings held
      Remedy selected
      TAG awarded
                 EPA and MADEP announce completion of the Community
                 Relations/Public Involvement Plan

                          W ' Lagoon excavation begins
                                         Excavation continues
                                                    1 Landfill cap construction (planned)

                                                            I s  Ground water assessment (planned)

                               Superfund At Work    W.R. Grace Site, Aclon, MA
                             Summer 1996
     Continued from page 3

     nation, to serve as EPA's scien-
     tific basis for comprehensive
       Two months later, Congress
     enacted the Comprehensive
     Environmental Response,
     Compensation, and Liability
     Act of 1980 authorizing the
     Superfund program. A pri-
     mary purpose of the law was
     to remediate hazardous waste
     sites using private funding
     whenever possible.  In 1983,
     EPA placed the W.R. Grace site
     on the National Priorities List
     (NPL), a  roster of abandoned
     or uncontrolled hazardous
     waste sites requiring compre-
     hensive cleanup.  AWD also
     pursued  the company for the
     costs of the well closure which
     W.R. Grace paid four years
       EPA approved W.R. Grace's
     work plan  for aquifer restora-
     tion in October 1984, and by
     1985 the company had in-
     stalled a ground water pump-
     and-treat system. Ten extrac-
     tion wells pump contaminated
     ground water from beneath the
     waste disposal areas and an
     air-stripping tower extracts the
     contaminants.  After treatment,
     the ground water is then dis-
     charged into nearby Sinking
     Pond. This system signifi-
     cantly slowed migration of
     pollutants to the aquifer. Toxic
     concentrations, which at one
     time exceeded 100 ppb, range
     from one to three ppb.
  Natural Chemical with Multiple Uses

     Latex is a milky white juice found in several families of flowering
  plants such as the Para rubber tree of Brazil. One kind of natural latex
  known as chicle, once was widely used to make chewing gum.
  Another kind, gutta-percha, was used in making golf balls.  The latex
  of the opium poppy is the source of opium and the alkaloid morphine.
     In the paint and coatings industry,  synthetic latex has come into
  widespread use since the late 1940s. Every paint contains a  binder or
  resin which forms the film and holds the paint together. Latex is a
  specific type  of binder with useful properties, such as protection of
  wood and masonry from all types of weather.   Other properties
  include color and gloss retention, blister resistance, long-term flexibil-
  ity, and ease of application. Spills, brushes, and hands clean up with
  soap and water. In the rubber industry, synthetic latex also  is used to
  manufacture hundreds of items including tires, overshoes, and adhe-
  sives. The elasticity and toughness of latex ensure a long life for many
     Today, manufacturers follow strict regulations on  discharge of
  effluent or disposal of hazardous wastes generated during industrial
  processes. Many companies have gone  beyond  traditional waste
  control measures and practice pollution prevention by  reducing the
  risks associated with toxic chemicals.  Solvent substitution, product
  redesign, and equipment modification successfully reduce or elimi-
  nate hazardous waste.
 Landfill and Lagoon Closure
 Plan Under Way
   Solid and hazardous wastes
 generated during various
 manufacturing processes had
 been disposed of in unlined
 lagoons and a landfill covering
 six acres. In cooperation with
 EPA, W.R. Grace conducted
 studies to determine the best
 approach to address contami-
 nants found in the lagoons and
   After examining several
 options,  EPA selected a plan that
 involved excavating the sludge
 lagoons and mixing the wastes
 with fly ash, quick lime, and
 portland cement. This mixture
then enters a thermal desorp-
tion system that uses heat
generated by the addition of
lime to enhance the release of
VOCs before the treated mate-
rial is allowed to solidify. Emis-
sions driven off during treat-
ment are collected and treated
by thermal oxidation. This
technology uses a flare to burn
and destroy the VOCs. Engi-
neers will then transfer the
solidified sludge to  the on-site
industrial landfill and install an
impermeable cap with a high-
density, polyethylene liner.
  Specific cleanup standards
are required for the contents of
               Continued on page 6

                       Superfund At Work  W.R. Grace Site, Acton, MA
                           Summer 1996
  Community Involvement Shapes Decisions for
                           Cleanup Strategies
  Every  Superfund  site has
unique characteristics and so EPA
tailors the remedy to  "fit" not
only the hazardous waste, but
the  people who live and  work
there. Who knows better than
the folks in the area what some of
the effects of a hazardous waste
site have been? The local boy son
their bikes riding home  from
school are the ones who see the
fish kills. Mothers at home nurs-
ing  their babies are the first to
detect foul odors in the air. The
retired couple out for a walk in
the park will spot a fire and call
the emergency preparedness net-
work. Every day, average citi-
zens from all walks of life detect
changes in the environment and
alert local officials.
  The Superfund law is unique in
that public participation is both a
requirement written into the law
and a necessary component for the
selection of remedy. To encourage
citizen participation, the Superfund
law requires public meetings so
that questions and concerns can be
addressed throughout the site
cleanup process. Scientists, engi-
neers, and technicians from a vari-
ety of disciplines can assemble site
facts and details, but do they make
sense? How does the decision EB\
must  make about the thorough-
ness and permanence of a remedy
effect the people down the street or
in future generations?
  The Superfund program offers
the  flexibility to air different op-
tions or set aside timetables to ac-
commodate specific  community
requirements. At least two pub-
lic comment periods are held dur-
ing the remedial process. EB\
provides construction activity up-
dates, fact sheets, and notices of
major milestones and events.
  In the small Town of Acton,
citizen involvement  was excep-
tionally high and helped EE\ and
MADEP reach decisions that were
appropriate for the community.
EPA and state officials welcomed
the opinions and the testimonials
of residents who came to public
meetings or wrote  their ideas
down on paper. Without this lo-
cal expression, government offi-
cials would have had to act in a
vacuum, not fully appreciating
what was important to the people
who live there.

                         Superfund At Work   W.R. Grace Site, Acton, MA    Summer 1996
Continued from page 4

each of the lagoons. To meet
these standards, adjustments
have had to be made to exca-
vate deeper or require treat-
ment in others; a solid mat
heavily contaminated with
benzene in the boiler lagoon
was sent to a licensed hazard-
ous waste incinerator instead.
Excavation is currently under
way, and work on the landfill
cap is scheduled for 1996.
Technical Assistance Grant
  The Acton community was
initially unsure about EPA's
selected remedy and expressed
concern that landfilling the
hazardous waste would merely
hide, rather than permanently
eliminate, the waste. At public
meetings, community members
asked EPA to delay the selection
of remedy so residents could
apply for a Technical Assistance
Grant (TAG). In 1989, EPA
awarded a TAG to the Acton
Citizens for Environmental
Safety (ACES). ACES then used
the funds to hire a technical
advisor to review  EPA's techni-
cal approach to the site and to
make recommendations on
behalf of local residents.  The
advisor monitors the removal
and treatment of contaminants
at the site.
                           Success at W.R.  Grace

     Discovery of contamination in ground water led to the closure of both municipal wells and the
  factory almost 15 years ago. The drinking water supply for the Town of Acton was replaced many
  times faster than the restoration of the aquifer. But 10 years of ground water treatment have reduced
  contaminant levels to near federal standards.  Construction efforts to excavate and solidify 12
  distinct areas used for hazardous waste disposal are under way. In 1996, a landfill cap will be
  installed over the immobilized mass of industrial waste. Citizen awareness, corporate responsibil-
  ity, effective enforcement, and state oversight all contributed to the successful remediation of this
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