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EPA set to remove lead and PCB contamination in Dartmouth

Bliss Corner study area.PNG
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is investigation contamination in the Bliss Corner neighborhood of Dartmouth.

A cleanup of lead- and PCB-contaminated soil in Dartmouth’s Bliss Corner Neighborhood will begin in spring of 2022, according to state and federal officials who spoke at a virtual public meeting Thursday night.

The contamination came from waste material dumped in the neighborhood beginning in the 1930s, said John Handrahan of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The contamination came to light in 2018. Since then, DEP has sampled soil and groundwater from 76 properties in the area. Many had elevated, potentially hazardous levels of lead and PCBs (carcinogenic chemicals formerly used in manufacturing).

Drinking water resources were not impacted by the contamination, said Handrahan. He added that the state will continue sampling to soil and groundwater to determine the extent of the issue.

Meanwhile, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will begin a cleanup next spring, starting with five of the most contaminated properties. The EPA’s John McKeown laid out the plan: “Go to those five properties and excavate the contaminated soil until that risk is gone, and then backfill with clean material and restore the property to its original conditions.”

McKeown estimated the cleanup of the five properties would cost between $2 million and $2.8 million. He said cleanup of additional properties in the future is likely.

Handrahan urged residents with contaminated properties not to contact the soil until cleanup is complete. “Our recommendations are basically to refrain from digging wherever possible,” said Handrahan. “Do not grow fruits and vegetables in this waste material.”

The state has determined that Dartmouth and neighboring New Bedford could be legally responsible for the contamination, but both municipalities dispute the claim.

More information about the DEP’s environmental investigation of Bliss Corner is available on the state’s website.


Daniel covers the South Coast for WCAI. He comes to the station from Minnesota Public Radio, where he reported on science and the environment. Daniel has produced audio documentaries on a motley mix of topics, from the science of sewage to the history of automobile license plates. He holds a PhD in climate change ecology from the University of Minnesota. Daniel is a 2021-22 Report For America corps member.