Contaminated Boston River raises hurdle for federal cleanup funds – NBC Boston

As federal, state and local officials gathered in Mattapan on Monday to announce a 3.7-mile stretch of the Lower Neponset River’s designation as a Superfund site, they halted their speech schedule to make way for a group of cyclists to cross the bridge serving as the backdrop for their press conference.

“Next time we’ll swim,” one of the men joked as he rode his bike near the podium.

Seven years after Massachusetts asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to name the part of the Neponset River that meanders through Milton, Dorchester, Mattapan and Hyde Park as a Superfund site, the decision by the EPA was hailed as a major step forward in cleanup efforts and celebrated for its potential. provide long-term recreational, ecological and economic benefits.

“Today we take the first official step toward cleaning up the river and making it safe for our neighbors,” said U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. “Like many industrial states, Massachusetts has used our rivers and coasts as a waterfront. We have built communities around our ports and shorelines, which has fueled our economy and created important jobs, but at the same time Over time, this development has come with a high price of harmful pollution and contamination and these costs have been passed on to our local communities.”

Warren said the state’s congressional delegation will work to ensure federal funding for cleanup efforts arrives “as soon as possible.”

Citing sediment contamination resulting from the former operation of industrial plants and dams built to turn millstones, the EPA last September included the Lower Neponset River as one of 13 areas it proposed to d added to the Superfund’s list of national priorities. Inclusion on the list opens up new funding and application opportunities for the nation’s most serious unchecked or abandoned contaminated sites.

The EPA plans to release a comprehensive list of Superfund National Priorities List updates later this week.

“It’s a win-win situation for the communities that enjoy recreating on the river, the families that live in the area, and the wildlife that depends on it, because we now have a mechanism to address the contamination of sediments that has plagued the river for decades,” Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator David Cash said.

The next steps for the EPA, Cash said, will be to “really understand what’s going on with the contamination in the river.” He said he couldn’t put a schedule on how long the cleaning would take.

The lower channel of the Neponset River is approximately 40 to 300 feet wide and comprises approximately 40 acres passing through the Hyde Park, Mattapan, and Dorchester neighborhoods of Boston and the town of Milton. Preliminary studies from 2002 indicated that its sediments are contaminated with high levels of PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls.

Bordered by residential, commercial and industrial areas and public lands, including the Neponset River Greenway, the new Superfund site crosses the districts of U.S. Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Stephen Lynch.

Pressley said the designation “is the result of years of work by local organizers and advocacy groups who have fought for both a review and the removal of contamination from this river that runs through my district.”

“No one should have to live, work or go to school near a contaminated site,” she said.

Lynch also noted the years it took to get there. He said State Rep. Rob Consalvo of Hyde Park worked on a project involving the river in 1995 as an aide to his House predecessor, former Rep. Angelo Scaccia.

“There’s a heavy dose of environmental justice done here today that’s been a long time coming,” Lynch said.

The Lower Neponset River joins a list of 1,322 Superfund sites, including 31 more in Massachusetts, according to the EPA.

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