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Federal Help Requested For Contaminated Factory Site

The former Creese and Cook Co. leather factory site has been found to contain hazardous contaminants.

Danvers is turning to the Federal government for help cleaning up contaminated sites on Water and Clinton streets, and inside the Crane River. 

The Mass. Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency briefed the Danvers Board of Health on the status of a Federal Superfund grant for the former Creese & Cook leather factory site, at last week's meeting. 

Along the railroad track, inside the Crane River sediment and the soil at a portion of the 33 Water St. condominiums and 55 Clinton St. property were found to contain harmful contaminants: arsenic, dioxin and chromium.  

The contaminants stemmed from the Creese & Cook co. former leather factory, where animal hides were processed into shoe, handbag, glove and garnet leather. The factory was in operation from 1903 until 1983. 

In 2011, the EPA and DEP had met with the owners of the 33 Water Street condominiums and applied to be placed on the National Priority List for a Federal Superfund grant.  "This is a very complex site, [with] a variety of toxins, and the only real way to get in there and get in a site this complex and this expensive is through the Federal Superfund listing process," Chris Pyott, MassDEP Environmental Analyst told board members.  

The application to be placed on the National Priority List for a Federal Superfund will go through this September, pending a letter from Gov. Deval Patrick's office. 

Since April 20, the EPA has been working at the section of the 33 Water Street condominiums site to remove contaminants from surface soils. 

On-scene coordinator Ted Bazenas said the six-to-eight week process at the condominiums excavated 12-18 inches of arsenic-contaminated soil, and then placed a protective cap over it. Bazenas noted that "this is a short term fix to protect public health," and because the site is going forward for a proposed listing, this clean-up isn't a final action. 

He did say, however, the area did no longer pose an imminent health hazard.  Once a Federal Superfund is approved, they will start the longer term full comprehensive investigation and begin necessary clean up. 

Board of Health R.N. Martha Swindell raised the concern of the lack of signage near one of the fenced-off areas, other than "a little piece of paper folded up stuck in one of the crosses of the wire fence," and questioned how the condominiums were allowed to be built on the site in the mid-80's in the first place. 

"Our environmental levels have come an awful long way since the 80's," Pyott said. "[The condominiums] were allowed to go forward and we had no evidence there was a problem there until reviewing the Danvers Historical archives. We were able to unearth that the tannery originated there - we did not know that."

Since 2006, the state had been involved in efforts at 55 Clinton Ave., across the Crane River where it was known that extensive cleanup was necessary. During that time, they identified that in addition to the Crane River, there were other areas in the other parcels that were also contaminated. 

"We can never really explain how these things happen, but the really important thing is that we were drawn across the river at the right time," Meghan Cassidy, chief of Superfund technical and enforcement support for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's New England Region said. "That has helped because we can more comprehensively address the problem."

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