Woburn Hydrogeology Data
Brief History

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Wells G & H were developed by the City of Woburn in 1964 and 1967, respectively, in response to urban growth during the 1960's.  The wells, screened in the Aberjona aquifer, were capable of supplying two million gallons of water per day, but were initially intended only for use during times of water shortage or emergencies.   Local officials estimate that 27-28% of the community's water supply was provided by Wells G & H.  The remainder of the water supply was provided by seven wells located near Horn Pond south of Salem Street.  These wells are located in a different aquifer and are not affected by contamination present in the study area of Wells G & H.  Local records indicate that the water from Wells G & H exhibited high concentrations of manganese and iron, which resulted in unpleasant taste and odor.   Prompted by citizens' complaints concerning water quality, and in order to meet anticipated increased demand for water, the City of Woburn examined the feasibility of treating the water in 1974 (NUS, 1985).  However, treatment was not implemented.

On May 4, 1979, 184 55-gallon drums containing polyurethane and toluene diisocyanate were found on a vacant lot located on Mishawum Road on property owned by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA).  The drums were removed by unknown parties during negotiations with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Quality Engineering (DEQE) over removal of these drums.  This incident prompted DEQE to sample the nearest down gradient water supply, Woburn's municipal water supply from Wells G & H, as a precautionary measure.

Several chlorinated volatile organic compounds were detected by DEQE in water from Wells G & H at concentrations ranging from 1 to 400 part per billion (ppb).   Wells G & H were subsequently shut down on May 21, 1979, forcing the City of Woburn to use Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) water to supplement its public water supply.  Currently, the MDC supplies approximately one third of the city's water needs. 

During the mid to late 1970's, the local community became concerned over the incidence of childhood leukemia, particularly in the Pine Street area of east Woburn.   After DEQE detected volatile organic contamination in Wells G & H in 1979, some members of the local community suspected that the incidence of leukemia was linked to the possible exposure to volatile organic chemicals through the Wells G & H water supply.   The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) began investigating the problem in December, 1979.  A higher than expected rate of childhood leukemia was confirmed by the MDPH in April, 1980.

Upgradient of Wells G & H, another area of waste disposal (the Industriplex site) came to the attention of local, state, and federal officials in the 1970's, when the owner began developing a portion of the site (Ecology and Environment, 1982b).  Filling and excavating activities created noxious odors which prompted citizen complaints.

Soils contaminated with heavy metals and arsenic exist on the Industriplex site.  Volatile organic contamination has been found in the groundwater beneath the site (Roux, 1983a).

In May, 1983 three administrative orders pursuant to Section 3013 of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) were issued to W.R. Grace and Co., Inc. (Cryovac Division), UniFirst Corporation (formerly Interstate Uniform Services Corporation), and Beatrice Foods, Inc..  These orders required submittal of proposals by each company for the sampling, analysis, monitoring, and reporting that would address the problem of possible groundwater contamination on or emanating from their properties.   Groundwater monitoring programs were subsequently initiated by the three companies.

In 1989, EPA directed Camp, Dresser, & McKee (CDM) to prepare a Remedial Action Master Plan (RAMP) for Wells G & H site.  The RAMP's purpose was "to identify the type, scope and sequence of activities to identify and implement a remedial action(s) to mitigate the effects of the contaminants in East Woburn" (Camp, Dresser, & McKee, 1983).

In May, 1982, a number of citizens whose children had developed leukemia filed a civil lawsuit against two companies (W.R. Grace/Cryovac Division and Beatrice Foods) suspected of contributing contamination to Wells G & H.  In April, 1985, the same citizen's group brought civil lawsuits against a third company: Unifirst Corporation.  The civil lawsuits brought against the first two companies in 1982 was recently settled out of court following part of what was planned as a three part trial.   The civil lawsuit filed against UniFirst Corporation was settled out of court in October, 1985.