State investigators searching ground, records in Bliss Corner pollution probe

Mar 5, 2019

After the discovery of cancer-causing pollutants in the Bliss Corner neighborhood, the search for the extent and source of the toxic chemicals is on.

In February, the state Department of Environmental Protection announced it had opened an investigation after waste material was discovered at a construction site at 85 McCabe St. The waste material indicated the land might have been used as a landfill in the past, prior to the neighborhood’s residential development. Similar waste material was discovered at neighboring 20 and 21 Kraseman St., and 31 McCabe St.

Several toxic chemicals were identified at the 20 Kraseman St. site. They include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) — an industrial chemical banned by the EPA in 1979 due to its impacts on human and environmental health — polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heavy metals, and lead. A preliminary study area has been identified, which the state agency will focus its efforts on. The study area includes dozens of homes, businesses, and a daycare.  

The state has hired an environmental contractor to begin the process of collecting samples throughout the study area, according to Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson Ed Coletta.

The company, Green Environmental, will be responsible for digging borings, installing monitoring wells, and collecting soil and groundwater samples. So far, the state has ruled out contamination of private water wells installed in the neighborhood.

“It’s to delineate where any of this material might be, and to see if we can get an idea of what the size of the area is and what is in the area itself,” Coletta said.

The search is also on for who might be responsible for the dumping. Under state law, past and present homeowners, agencies, companies, or individuals can still be held liable for cleanup costs even for dumping which occurred decades ago. Coletta said the agency will do its best to minimize any potential issues for current homeowners.

“We’ll do the best we can, do some investigation of how this happened, where, and who may have been potentially responsible for it,” Coletta said.

Records from the municipal governments of both Dartmouth and New Bedford are also being sought to determine if either have any written records of dumping activity.

“This type of thing can be traced back to a source,” Coletta said.

Dartmouth was initially given a 30-day deadline to submit information, but that has been extended for certain documents owing to the complicated task of digging through records — some digital, some paper, and some buried in boxes in the Town Hall vault.

“[The request for information] is very broad, and it’s looking for a lot of information,” said Town Administrator Shawn MacInnes. “We’ve been meeting here weekly with all departments to try and pull together the information they need.”

Other than newspaper articles, MacInnes said to his knowledge no additional paperwork regarding Bliss Corner pollution has been uncovered by the town, although the process is still ongoing.

As the investigation is still in its early stages, residents should keep an eye on a special website MassDEP has set up to update the public.