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Waste Site Cleanup & Reuse in New England

Community Action Agency of Somerville Head Start Facility - Somerville, MA
(April 2006)

Programs: EPA Assessment Grant and EPA Cleanup Grant
Grantee: City of Somerville (contacts)
Summary:  Three vacant contaminated lots were transformed into a new classroom location for the Community Action Agency of Somerville's Head Start Program.

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After looking for a home that would bring together its children's educational programs, which were historically scattered throughout the City of Somerville, the Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS) Head Start program now has a central location.

Creativity and perseverance paid off when CAAS spotted three vacant lots on Allen Street, a cluster of brownfields located in the densest neighborhood of Somerville.

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Using a portion of an EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant for $350,000 that was awarded to the city in 1996, CAAS and the city worked together to assess all three sites for contamination. This work revealed that the spoil and water was contaminated with the following: polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB's), volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, antimony, arsenic, lead and nickel. Although some of these substances occur naturally in the environment, higher than average exposure can cause serious health problems.

Once the assessment work was complete, CAAS purchased two of the three properties (the City of Somerville owned the third). CAAS and the City of Somerville entered into a land swap so that CAAS would have two adjacent properties for the construction of the Head Start facility. Funding for cleanup and construction of the Head Start facility came from multiple donors, including: the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Block Grant program; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children; the Boston Community Capital Fund; two anonymous private foundations; and the CAAS's capital campaign.

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Before building the new site, the Head Start classes were held at various locations throughout the city. Operating under one roof saves the program money, allowing it to spend more on its unique early childhood education programs for children of low-income families. CAAS determined that it will save money on administration and transportation costs as well. The new facility has eight classrooms that serve a total of 126 children.

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For the adjoining city-owned lot, a year-long community envisioning effort was undertaken to determine its end-use: a community garden and passive park. Cleanup of that area will be supported by a $200,000 EPA Brownfields Cleanup Grant.

By clearing up these blighted properties and opening this educational facility, the City of Somerville and CAAS have restored pride in the neighborhood, improved the tax base for the city, and provided a valuable resource for the children of low-income families.

The new facility opened in March of 2005.


  • 1999-2002:  Sites assessed with EPA funds.

  • 2003-2004:  Site is cleaned up with city funds.

  • 2004-2005:  Head Start facility is constructed.

  • March 2005:  Head Start facility opens.

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