What are the main contaminants in the soil and water at Starmet?
The main contaminants are depleted uranium (DU) and beryllium. There are also other isotopes of uranium, nitrates, thorium, molybdenum, trichloroethane, high levels of copper, and volatile organic compounds.
What are the potential health risks from the contamination at Starmet?
Depleted uranium (DU) is a heavy metal and is both radioactive and chemically toxic. It is hazardous if it is inhaled or ingested. Internally, it can cause kidney and liver damage, leukemia, and cancers of the lung, bone and other organs.
Beryllium is a highly toxic metal. Exposure to beryllium is the cause of berylliosis, a fatal lung disease and can also cause cancers of the lung and liver.
Is there a higher incidence of cancer in Concord?
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has registered cancer mortality rates in the state since 1982. In the period 1982-1992, Concord had one of the highest levels of thyroid cancer in Massachusetts, more than twice the state average. Concord also had elevated levels of some other cancers including multiple myeloma. In the period 1992-1997 the incidence of thyroid cancer and multiple myeloma were still elevated, although not at significantly high levels. MDPH has not found any relation between cancer incidence in Concord and the NMI/Starmet plant.
Is the Town of Concord’s water supply threatened with contamination from the Starmet site?
According to all of the present data, Town water supplies are not threatened at this time. One Town well, the Second Division Well, is located about half a mile away from Starmet. The Concord Water Department tests this well annually for radioactivity. Also, the contaminated groundwater at Starmet appears to be flowing away from the Second Division Well toward the Assabet River. However, the Assabet River flows into the Concord River, which is the sole source of drinking water for the Town of Billerica.
Have contaminants been found off the Starmet property?
Studies of surface soil located beyond Starmet’s property were conducted by CREW in 1994, and again in 1997. Traces of uranium, unique to Starmet’s production, were found even at a distance of four miles. Traces of the same unique uranium were found in the bark of black oak trees at distances of a mile from Starmet in a study published in 2003. In all cases, the levels of radiation were still within safe limits, however they provided clear evidence that at some time in the history of the Starmet plant, DU was emitted from the stacks. CREW has urged the EPA to do further soil sampling off the Starmet property.
Are there contaminants being emitted from the Starmet stacks now?
From 1984 to 2001, Starmet submitted stack emissions data to the Concord Board of Health. The data showed that they were within the allowable limits for emissions. However, until the1970’s there were no particulate filters on the Starmet stacks, and there is evidence that they were emitting contaminants during the early years of production. Despite repeated requests from CREW and government agencies, Starmet refused to release stack emissions data for the years 1958 to 1983. There is no production of uranium products at the Starmet plant now.
Have former Starmet/NMI workers suffered health problems from exposure to DU, beryllium or other chemicals and metals processed at the plant?
CREW has had contact with several former Starmet/NMI workers who have experienced serious health problems. Former workers should contact CREW if they believe that they have contracted illnesses from exposure to toxic materials at Starmet. In 2000 the US Department of Energy (DOE) established a program to provide compensation to the employees of DOE contractors that manufactured radioactive weapons or used beryllium in their production. Workers of Starmet/Nuclear Metals qualify for compensation under this program. (For more information about workers at Starmet/NMI see Resources for Former Workers.)
Who will clean up the Starmet site?
In 2001, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared the Starmet property a Superfund Site and determined that the Responsible Parties (PRPs) for the funding of the cleanup were Starmet, the US Army, the US Dept. of Energy, Whitaker Corporation, Textron Incorporated and Money Corp, who consented, Starmet excepted, to fund an investigation and cleanup design in the approximate amount of $8,000,000. The three non-governmental parties selected de maximis, inc. , Knoxville, TN, http://www.demaximis.com , to conduct the investigation and design work. After the cleanup design is approved, EPA will negotiate with the same PRPs to fund the work of the cleanup.
As was mentioned in the "What’s New" page of this website, part of the cleanup has already been done.