A consulting firm has released soil tests that show the extent of contamination on nearly 12 acres that were once part of the former Watertown Arsenal.
The results indicate the presence of cancer-causing dioxins and other soil contaminants, but have not yet been analyzed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, said project manager Ellen Iorio.
Iorio said that the results of the testing by MACTEC were expected, but it was impossible to be sure which industrial activities caused the contamination.
"We knew there’d be dioxins there, and we weren’t surprised by our findings," she said. "Watertown is an urban area with a lot going on."
The so-called General Services Administration site, which was used for storing and sometimes burning spent uranium tailings for the munitions industry during World War II, is located on Arsenal Street and Greenough Boulevard and has been overgrown for years.
In 1967, responsibility for the property was transferred to the General Services Administration. The land then had various uses, including a period when it was a police firing range. However, since the soil contamination dates to the Army's tenure, funds for the cleanup are coming from a federal program aimed at former military sites.
Iorio said a public meeting explaining the results of the soil testing will be held in Watertown sometime in July or August.
It is hoped that the soil can be cleaned to the point where it can be used for passive recreation.
Other safety efforts, such as demolishing dangerous abandoned buildings, are contingent upon the results of the soil cleanup.
"We’ve written letters to US senators Scott Brown and Kerry, as well as our US representative, Edward Markey, to try and get attention drawn to the problems posed by these buildings," said Christopher Hayward, agent for the Watertown Conservation Commission, when previously interviewed on the subject. "So far we’ve received no satisfactory answer on who is responsible for them."
The next step after analyzing the soil test results will be a feasability study on cleanup procedures. The USACE hopes to start the cleanup sometime in 2012.
Sarah Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.