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Neponset River from Hyde Park to Dorchester could become federal Superfund site

The State House News Service reports the federal EPA yesterday formally proposed making the Neponset River, from Dana Avenue in Hyde Park to Dorchester Lower Mills a designated Superfund hazardous-waste and cleanup site due to the large volume of PCBs in river silt and the difficulties of trying to recoup costs from dozens of sites responsible for the contamination on one of the nation's oldest industrial waterways.

In its proposal to designate the lower Neponset, the EPA says:

Historically, numerous mills were established along the Lower Neponset River in the towns of Dorchester, Milton, Hyde Park, and Mattapan, utilizing dams to generate power initially to turn mill grinding wheels and later to operate the large industrial mills. ...

Nearly 60,000 cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediments reside along the Lower Neponset River, behind the dams, in the Braided Channel area and near the confluence of Mother Brook. The contamination threatens the groundwater which is a potential source of public drinking water for more than 40,000 people within four miles of the site. The Neponset River is a fishery. Although the state has issued a fish advisory due to the presence of PCBs and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), there is evidence that fishing and human consumption is still taking place. The state has also classified this portion of the river as impaired for recreational use due to the presence of PCBs, Escherichia Coli (E. Coli), and Enterococcus.

One source of contaminants in the Neponset used to be the Mother Brook - the oldest canal in the US, dating to 1639 - which joins the Neponset just before Dana Avenue in Hyde Park. But in 2006 and 2007, the state shut the brook, which starts at a dam on the Charles River in Dedham, and removed contaminated sediment. The work wasn't fully completed until 2009.

The state's efforts to get landowners to pay for at least some of the work on the relatively short brook illustrates the potential issues the EPA could face in assessing and collecting payment for work along the Neponset: It took some nine years of legal action in federal court to determine just which of present-day landowners were responsible for which percentage of pollution in the brook, part of which involved tracing the industrial histories for properties that were long since converted to other uses, including a supermarket and a charter school.

PDF icon EPA filing on the Neponset River61.31 KB

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Ian Cooke and crew, who have been spearheading the clean up and in some cases, daylighting tributaries of the Neponset, for well over 20 years have been excellent in bringing people together and putting pressure on the right people to get this river in better shape.

Voting closed 30

I wish there were one of these for every watershed, are there more of these?

Voting closed 14

Others are watershed associations.

They are very effective advocates for the rivers, regardless of name.

I know the Nashua has one now. And the Merrimack. I think the Connecticut has a riverkeeper as it involves 4 states (and a little bit of Quebec, too).

Just have to look them up.

Voting closed 15

Voting closed 12

like the Charles, Mystic, Sudbury, and other rivers do?

Voting closed 17

Not so much the toxics as the e-coli and enterococci are generally higher than recreational boating standards.

Voting closed 17

A 1967 MDC plan for recreation on the Mother Brook called for kayak rentals at the Mill Pond and swimming beaches on the lower brook.

Voting closed 20

I grew up close to Baird & Maguire in Holbrook which was/is still a Superfund sight. I grew up drinking rainbow color koolaid now I live around the corner of the Neponset in HP and I am also near the toxic waste.

Voting closed 16

Don't let the possible designation as a Superfund site scare you away; this area is an awesome place for a walk, run , bike , etc. Cleaning the water / river bed will only enhance it. Highly recommend it. An occasional " on your left" from the bikers would be appreciated.

Voting closed 19