Decades later, local town continues to fight to clean up superfund site

Decades later, local town continues to fight to clean up superfund site

ASHLAND, Mass. — Decades later, the town of Ashland continues to clean up contamination from a superfund site, and residents are still asking questions.

The Nyanza Dye plant closed down in 1978, but while it was open, the EPA confirmed the company buried over 45,000 tons of chemical sludge on the ground. In 2006, a health study linked the pollution caused by the plant to the cancer clusters in the area.

On Thursday night, residents met with the EPA in a meeting to discuss the chemicals that remain in the town’s groundwater. Many said the meeting was both a good and bad sign.

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On one hand, residents say they’re discouraged there are still contaminants in the town, something that’s come as a shock to many over the years. However, they also said they’re encouraged that the EPA is listening to their concerns and is working further to clean up what remains of the cancer-causing chemicals.

More than 21 years after her son’s death, Marie Kane of Ashland continues his fight.

“It’s been a long journey for us and for many others," said Kane.

Kane’s son wanted to prove the rare form of cancer that ultimately killed him at the age of 26 was caused by his time playing as a child near the site of the former dye plant. Boston 25 News spoke to him in 1998, the year he died.

“It took 8 years to conduct that study which proved in the end that Nyanza had been the cause," said Kane.

The Nyanza land was declared a superfund site in 1983, but no one in the town thought they’d still be fighting for clean up in 2020.

“All of us have suffered losses,” said one resident.

At the meeting, the EPA outlined their plans to clean up the remaining contaminated groundwater, something residents have pushed for, for years.

“I’ve been here for 45 years and this has been part of our community life," said Steve Mitchell, a Selectman in Ashland.

The EPA, acknowledging the long process, says they focused on imminent health concerns first and now have the technology to go further.

“For a lot of us, we grew up with what I have been referring to as a culture of loss and yet what you find in the midst of all of that is, I feel a tremendous spirit and bond,” said Dan Borelli, who grew up in Ashland.

“We will continue to fight for as long as we need to,” said Kane. "I’m not sure it will be alleviated or resolved I should say in our day because we are old but I hope it will be carried forth by younger people in the town who will carry it on.”

If approved, the EPA’s preferred plan would cost about $20.5 million and could take up to 10 years to implement.