Brief history of the W. R. Grace site in North Cambridge, Massachusetts and surrounding areas, including activities related to:
W. R. Grace and associated companies
City of Cambridge official agencies
CDD (Cambridge Development Department)
MADEP (Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection)
MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority)
MEPA (Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act)
(This page updated June 29, 2000)
History, by decades, of W. R. Grace site:
June 25, 2000 - New York Times article by By Adrianne Appel "E.P.A. to Assess if Contaminated Sports Field Imperils Health"
(datelined June 22). Includes EPA plans to check W. R. Grace site. Ends with a quote
from Joe Joseph (of the Alewife Study Group)
"The big question is, why was a playing field used as a staging area for toxic waste?"
June 12, 2000 - W.R. Grace's plans to develop a hotel and two office buildings
on its North Cambridge property will be postponed "indefinitely."
News item dated June 14, in the Cambridge Chronicle.
Nov. 1, 1999 - Asbestos protection ordinance (first-in-the-nation),
passed by Cambridge City Council.
May 1999 - W. R. Grace publishes final report on the asbestos found in the soil. 16.2% of
the sampling locations contained asbestos, although W. R. Grace chose to phrase it as 5.8% of
the samples taken. Contaminated areas are spread throughout the site, raising concern
from at least one statistics professor. Many inconsistencies with proposed sampling plan
were overlooked. No further sampling is planned in the report.
May 1999 - MADEP awards $10,000 to Alewife Neighbors, Inc., for more Russell Field testing.
May 1999 - City Council, on Cambridge Development Department's recommendation, allocates $10,000
to Alewife Neighbors, Inc., for more Russell Field testing.
May 1999 - Settlement with Genetics Institute re: 200 CambridgePark Drive planned
development to retain flood storage capacity, has GI donate: (a) increased land near bikepath
entrance for a possible nature center and (b) $10,000 to an Alewife Trust Fund
for natural resource preservation and for increased visual screening between project and
Alewife Brook Reservation.
Jan 1999 - Neighborhood's Von Grossman Petition is rejected by City Council. This petition would have restricted development to 130,000 sq. ft. and put in controls to
protect the neighborhood from traffic, contaminants, and flooding. City Council voted to
allow 422,500 sq. ft. of new development (3 office buildings and a hotel were planned) and
a 50,000 sq. ft. grocery store (thanks to a late add-in by Vice Mayor Galluccio).
Dec 1998 - Preliminary results from soil sampling across entire site indicate asbestos
contamination is spread throughout the site.
Oct 1998 - Environmental Site Assessment, Subsurface Conditions at Russell Field Final Report
filed indicated that subsurface soil was contaminated by asbestos, metals, and semivolatile organic analytes, and groundwater was contaminated by nickel. MADEP assigns tracking number RTN 3-17087.
Oct 1998 - Alewife Study Group awarded Cambridge Peace Commission's "Cambridge Peace and
July 1998 - Soil sampling on W. R. Grace property reveals asbestos, and MADEP assigns tracking number
Nov 1997 - City Council extends building moratorium for another year.
Nov 1996 - City Council approves one year moratorium on construction at W. R. Grace Site.
Oct 1996 - Cambridge City Council approves temporary 400 foot buffer zone between Grace Site
construction and neighborhood property.
1996 - Notice of Project Change filed with MEPA by Spaulding & Slye for Alewife Center.
Notice of Project Change withdrawn by Spaulding & Slye prior to MEPA public hearing.
1995, June -David Vickery of Spaulding & Slye announces plans for 60,000 s.f. supermarket
and 90,000 s.f. retail building on W. R. Grace parcel. Project to be called Alewife Center.
1993 - Cambridge Community Development issues its new master plan for Alewife which does not
include the W. R. Grace parcel.
1992 - Massachusetts Highway Department issued its Section 61 finding for Alewife Center
1990 - Final controversy over Route 2 plans. Lively protest against "Salvucci's Wall"
and the plans for protests.
1989 - Minor amendment requested to alter construction schedule with Cambridge Planning Board;
1988 - Supplemental FEIR, Alewife Center, (EOEA #5869) (1988) issued on existing site conditions
and development impacts.
1988 - Demolition of existing building at former Lehigh Metals site.
1988 - One Alewife Center Building construction completed.
1987, September - New development for an office complex was proposed on W. R. Grace Site, requiring
a special permit, Industrial Zone C - Planned Unit Development (IC-PUD). Special Permit, granted by the Cambridge Planning Board.
1987 - FEIR (Final Environmental Impact Report), Alewife Center, Vols. 1,2 (EOEA #5869) issued and
found inadequate by MEPA.
1986 - Reports on site environmental issues required. Alewife Center Draft Environmental Impact
Report (DEIR) issued.
1984 - MEPA granted a waiver for 87,000 s.f. office building at Alewife Center with 320 parking
1982 - The 21E Superfund was enacted. Wastes from MBTA tunnel alignment were excavated and removed
from site and sent to Kingston, RI for disposal.
1978 - Cambridge Community Development issued its master plan for Alewife (under CDD director
Vickery). Plan was called the "Fish Book" it stressed new development.
1970 to 1972 - Protests against Inner Belt & Route 2 Extension . Route 2 plan was shelved.
MBTA announced plans for Red Line extension to Alewife.
1960s & 1950s
1962 - Highway Master Plans for Route 2 Extension
1950 to mid-1960s - local operations phased out by W. R. Grace for Dewey and Almy site.
1948 - Highway Master Plans for Route 2 Extension
1940s, post WWII - Dewey and Almy developed several dispersants, such as DAXAD
(naphthalene sulphonate), used in rubber-making and other processes. Several lagoons used as
settling ponds (standard disposal practice at that time) and for cooling water.
up to 1940
1919 to 1940 - Dewey and Almy manufacture rubber and rubber based products until they are bought
out by W.R, Grace.
1933 to 1934 - Route 2 and rotary built as a new state highway
1929 - Alewife Brook Parkway & Bridges built
Before 1919 - W. R. Grace site was initially a marshy field that was later mined for clay by several
companies. Mining operations were exhausted by 1893.