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Release Date: 02/27/1997
Contact Information: Liza Judge, Community Involvement, (617) 918-1067 Ted Bazenas, On-Scene Coordinator, (617) 573-5723

BOSTON -- Cleanup crews with the Environmental Protection Agency, and a private company responsible for some of the site contamination, have begun removing hazardous chemicals and contaminated leather hides from a former tannery on Pulaski Street in Peabody, Mass.

Recently, a crew removed 40 tons of chromium-contaminated leather hides stored outside the Monnier Building on 60 Pulaski Street. The EPA also used a crane to remove the top of a 150 foot smokestack at the facility that was crumbling and posing a risk to cleanup crews.

In the coming weeks, the cleanup crew will remove chromium-contaminated chemicals from two vats, as well as degrading pipe insulation containing asbestos. The EPA and the private company are also discussing how to remove the 1,900 cubic yards of contaminated leather scraps that remain piled inside the facility. The EPA will also collect soil samples from around the property and, throughout the cleanup, EPA will monitor air quality to ensure that safety precautions are protecting neighbors and workers at the site.

"Cleanup of these hazardous wastes will make this neighborhood safer and will improve the chances for re-use of the property in the near future." said John P. DeVillars, administrator of the EPA's New England office. "Private efforts to dispose of the waste piles are expediting this cleanup and saving the taxpayers money."

High chromium levels at the site pose a risk to anyone who comes in contact with the contaminated leather. The EPA was also concerned that contaminated runoff water could easily have threatened life in the nearby Waters River.

In addition, many residents and a number of schools are in the vicinity of the site, and access had only been restricted by a partial fence and gate. Since starting the cleanup, the EPA has built a temporary fence around the property and posted a security guard during non-work hours.

The EPA first inspected the facility in July of 1995. Although piles of contaminated leather were noted, leaking pails and drums of chemicals stored outdoors were of greatest concern. At the EPA's request, the property's estate administrator hired an environmental cleanup contractor to repackage and dispose of the chemicals.

During a second site visit last February, EPA sampling found up to 23,000 parts per million of chromium. The EPA's efforts to order the owner to perform additional cleanup work at the site have been unsuccessful. A more comprehensive EPA inspection at the facility in September discovered the additional hides, vats and asbestos.

From 1944 to 1993, several companies have manufactured and sold tanning chemicals and dyestuffs at the Pulaski Street facility. Since operations ceased, the facility has been used for storage and disposal of unknown waste and hazardous chemicals.