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EAST BRAINTREE Toxins become focus of resident worries

Braintree Forum - 8/25/2017

High levels of benzene discovered in East Braintree are leading to continued questions from residents and town officials, with some demanding answers about the alarming finds.

"I have strong concern as a citizen and as a lawyer," said Planning Board Chairman Bob Harnais, who lives in East Braintree and raised kids there.

Harnais said he wants to know if the heavy-industry companies along the Fore River Basin knew about the increased levels of benzyne without informing the town.

Out of six samples across Braintree, Quincy and Weymouth in April, levels of the carcinogenic chemical benzene were found to be at their highest levels in East Braintree, according to data revealed to the town council last week by the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS).

"Braintree was where we found the greatest number of exceedences," according to Dr. Curtis Nordgaard, who practices in Dorchester and is working with FRRACS on a pro-bono basis.

Nordgaard told town council last week that 11 different chemicals exceeded concentrations considered allowable for health standards in East Braintree, where an air quality test was conducted on Cotton Avenue.

Nordgaard, a pediatrician from Newton, has been leading the testing for the past year. He said the test results from Cotton Avenue detected benzene, a toxin tied to anemia, leukemia and other health issues, at .88 parts per billion - more than four times higher than the maximum level of .2 parts per billion recommended by the state.

The air quality tests done by Braintree based GeoLabs and Phoenix Environmental Laboratories of Connecticut also found levels of methylene chloride, 1.2 dichloropropane, 2-hexaanone, alkanes, hexane, acetone and ethanol that exceeded DEP standards, according Nordgaard.

"Some pollutants were two to three times as high as what the state considers acceptable for human health," he said, adding that Braintree exceeded levels normally found in Boston.

At the council meeting, co-leader of FRRACS, Alice Arena, said she was astonished by the levels of benzene, a carcinogen found in crude oil, that were discovered in East Braintree.

"We're hoping to get support from the Town of Braintree," she said. "This does very much affect you."

District 3 Town Councilor Thomas Bowes said he is fielding a lot of calls from residents about the reports of increased levels of benzene.

Bowes, who represents and lives in East Braintree, said he was interested in drafting a letter to the companies operating in the East Braintree area, including Citgo, Calpine and BELD.

Bowes said he wants to know what caused the benzene levels.

"They're working on doing another study, further from the water," Bowes said. "We hope to get assistance from Beacon Hill on this."

Harnias said he was also worried about the employees at heavy-industrial sites in East Braintree, and whether they had been exposed to the high levels.

"This is a very alarming issue," Harnais said.

Bowes said there is a beach and sporting fields in East Braintree that may be near the high levels and said he has worries about property values being impacted by the test results.

Jessica Trufant contributed to this report. Like The Forum on Facebook.

 
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