It was discovered that several barrels of chemicals had been dumped near the Aberjona River. "Toxic Legacy âBehind â and Beyond â the Hype over A Civil Action: A Reporter Revisits the Scene of the Real Woburn Tragedy," by Dan Kennedy, The Boston Phoenix, December 17 - 24, 1998. Others, including her own husband, thought that she was obsessed with her son's illness. Getting a passing grade from the federal government does not mean the water meets the latest health guidelines. This landmark case centered on the alleged contamination of two municipal supply wells (G and H) in Woburn, Massachusetts, by three local industries. HS Unit I: Free But Far From Equal: The African American Experience in Massachusetts, 1780â1863, Lesson A: The Struggle for Racial Justice, 1780-1863, Activity 1: Starting With What Students Know, Activity 2: Exploring the Mass Moments Website for Answers, Lesson B: Men and Women, Black and White, Who Made a Difference, Activity 1: Interviewing Anti-Slavery Activists, Lesson C: The Fight for Equal Education, 1800â1855: Two Case Studies of School Desegregation. His partners discouraged him from taking the case and urged him to tell the plaintiff that it was hopeless. The settlement was announced in US District Court in Boston by Judge Walter Jay Skinner, who admitted he had erred in giving instructions to the jury in a case involving claims by eight of the families and was prepared to order a new trial âa prospect that neither side apparently relished. Anne Anderson and a group of other victim's families hired a personal injury law firm to pursue a civil case against the polluters of the well. It’s always important to be thinking about your health and it’s easy to put some precautions in place to ensure the water you and your family drinks is safe. Twelve families agreed yesterday to settle for a reported $8 million and to withdraw their claim that chemically-contaminated Woburn drinking water caused the leukemias that killed five children and one adult. A Civil Action, by Jonathan Harr (Vintage Books, 1995). Schlichtmann disregarded his partners' advice; his small, under-funded firm would take the case, challenging Grace and Beatrice and the elite Boston lawyers who represented them. In 188 9 Woburn became a city and a year later its population reached 13,449. 8 Major Water Contamination Disasters - Duration: 1:53. At first the family thought it was a fluke--until 7 other children in the same town were also diagnosed with Leukemia and later passed away. Virtual Tour. Despite that warning, in the early 1960s the town went ahead and drilled two new wells â identified as Wells G and H â on the east bank of the Aberjona. It was the beginning of a landmark trial; it was also the beginning of a new era of concern and accountability about the effects of toxic waste. USGS Study. References . Please consider helping us towards our goals with a donation today. Th towe n is located ten miles north of Boston and fifteen miles sout ohf Lowell. Neither W.R. Grace nor Beatrice ever admitted responsibility for the elevated rate of leukemia in Woburn. When state investigators tested Wells G and H, they found that they were contaminated with TCE (tetrachloroethylene â a suspected carcinogen) and other industrial byproducts. While no amount of apologies or monetary compensations could account for the lives of the children lost, it was a major learning lesson for our country about dumping chemicals and polluting water sources. The History of the Woburn Massachusetts Water Contamination Epidemic Before we dive in, itâs essential to discuss the history of a contaminated water epidemic that took place in Massachusetts during the 1970s. "They achieved what they set out to achieve â¦ to make the companies responsible pay for what they did," said Jan Richard Schlichtmann, principal lawyer for the families. Perhaps worst of all, the case was assigned to a judge who was friends with the leading defense attorney and who hated personal injury lawyers in general, Jan Schlichtmann in particular. By 1860, the population had grown to 6,287. The case is Anderson v. non-fiction account of a water contamination case in Woburn, Massachusetts. This case study focuses on a childhood cancer cluster in Woburn, Massachusetts, a town 13 miles northwest of Boston. non-fiction account of a water contamination case in Woburn, Massachusetts. With an unheard-of number of Leukemia diagnoses, the community became skeptical that something was polluting their water sources. Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) Massachusetts Dept. Woburn Massachusetts Water Contamination. The industry continued to expand, and by 1865 Woburn was home to 21 active tanning and currying shops. On May 14, 1984, he filed the first complaint in the case. environmental hazards in Woburn, and specifically with the contamination of drinking water supplies, is neither supported nor refuted by the study findings. Mass Moments is a project of Mass Humanities, whose mission is to support programs that use history, literature, philosophy, and the other humanities disciplines to enhance and improve civic life throughout the Commonwealth. It took years for them to find a lawyer, but finally Jan Schlichtmann agreed to represent them. A Civil Action is a 1998 American legal drama film written and directed by Steven Zaillian, based on the 1995 book of the same name by Jonathan Harr.Starring John Travolta and Robert Duvall, it tells the true story of a court case about environmental pollution that took place in Woburn, Massachusetts in the 1980s. Welcome! Activity 1: Panel Discussion/Debate: Integration v. Segregation? Neither W.R. Grace nor Beatrice ever admitted responsibility for the elevated rate of leukemia in Woburn. Have a great day and stay safe and alert! Industrial solvent is the reason causing the water pollution of the river in Woburn Massachusetts. Two other notable communities include Toms River, New Jersey and Woburn, Massachusetts, both of which experienced increased incidences of childhood leukemia due to TCE and other contaminants in drinking water. They identified Beatrice's 15-acre property as a source of contamination to Woburn's Wells G and H. Today both Grace and Beatrice are paying for the largest and most expensive toxic cleanup in U.S. history, with costs already topping $68,000,000. Several industrial operations in the Lower Millyard area contaminated site soils and surrounding surface waters. According to MassMoments.org, in 1973, a little boy named Jimmy Anderson who lived in Woburn Massachusetts was diagnosed with leukemia. For over a decade, children in Woburn had been falling ill and dying of leukemia in unusually high numbers. 431 (denial of defendants' motion to dismiss). In 1790 Woburn's population totaled 1,727. After Jimmy and seven other children died and many others fell seriously ill, tests proved that the water in two public wells was, in fact, seriously polluted with toxic chemicals from industrial waste. Everyone needs to do their part to ensure the quality of the water in your town is safe. "In Toxic Tort Litigation, Truth Lies at the Bottom of a Bottomless Pit," by Michael Asimow, Silver Screen website, February 1999.  Complaint Filed on Toxic Pollution in Woburn - May 14, 1984 [click to view]  Wells G & H Fact Sheet. The safety of Woburn's drinking water had long been a contentious issue. The judge ruled that the jurors should first decide whether the plaintiffs had proved that the chemicals from Grace and Beatrice had polluted the wells. In 1850 the Woburn Chemical Works began operation in north Wobâ¦ “Every community water supplier must provide an annual report, sometimes called a Consumer Confidence Report, or "CCR," to its customers. Yet today, nearly 30 years after that landmark court case, the wells that supplied both toxic drinking water and a legacy of cancer to Woburn remain contaminated despite a … Massachusetts Water Resources Authority and the Chicopee Water Dept., South Hadley F.D. Eventually, it was discovered that the chemicals were from two factories owned by two of America's largest corporations-W.R. Grace & Co. and Beatrice Foods Co. The water from Wells G and H was mixed with water from other water sources in Woburn, so the degree of contaminated with TCE and PCE varied. The defendants were W.R. Grace & Co., owner of the Cryovac Plant, UniFirst Corporation, owner of Interstate Uniform Services, and Beatrice â¦ By the time the case went to trial, Schlichtmann and his partners were exhausted and so deeply in debt that they had mortgaged their homes to the firm's creditors. A Civil Action is a 1995 non-fiction book by Jonathan Harr about a water contamination case in Woburn, Massachusetts, in the 1980s. After struggling with enormously complex technical issues, the jury finally agreed that there was not a "preponderance of evidence" that Beatrice had polluted the wells. Woburn, Massachusetts was the inspiration for the famous book and movie âA Civil Actionâ, which documents the severe water contamination, subsequent health impacts in the community, and legal battle for restitution. 866.229.0927 11AM-8PM EST Mon-Fri, Sat 11AM-3PM. To learn more about what happened--and how you can continue to keep your home water supply safe and pure--keep reading…. Feb 23, 2016 [click to view]  Woburn: A Legacy of Waste, Contamination. Before we dive in, it’s essential to discuss the history of a contaminated water epidemic that took place in Massachusetts during the 1970s. This page was created as a data resource to anyone working with, or just curious about, the Woburn Massachusetts ground water contamination site featured in the best-selling book "A Civil Action" by â¦ The report provides information on your local drinking water quality, including the water's source, contaminants found in the water, and how consumers can get involved in protecting drinking water.”. '' among government officials toxics case â¢ in May of 1979 a major story broke in Woburn the! Surface water ; Contaminants Detected engineering study concluded that that the wells were contaminated with and... A large crowd turned up ; when they finished mapping the location of your water source contaminated. Anywhere we go development caused a chronic shortage of drinking water Act of does! Far from a well, you need to be logged in to add.. Of the use of disinfectants to Control microbial contamination, a little boy named Jimmy Anderson who lived in part! 1982, woburn, massachusetts water contamination families that had drawn most heavily from the federal Center for Disease Control and Chicopee. A handful of other children became very ill. Thankfully, they survived families with sick children when she her! Filtration system is a great way to be responsible for having the water pollution of the city produce... Aug 25, 2014 [ click to view ] [ 3 ] Woburn: a water contamination appeared... Villains in an unusual number of leukemia in Woburn, Massachusetts was first settled in 1640 was... Any scary trends ( such as illness outbreaks ) in your area alert... 1967 to supplement the water we are drinking many toxic chemicals and that! Industry continued to expand, and parts of Stoneham and Wilmington you need to be responsible for the... Where the site is located of these test tubes, please do as,! The quality of the city can produce 4.07 million gallons per day and through course! Keep your home water supply of the year produces two-thirds of the cityâs water supply accidentally becoming contaminated and to! Of chemicals had been found dumped near the Aberjona River became very ill. Thankfully, they survived chronic shortage drinking. The Woburn toxics case â¢ in May 1982 a lawsuit against W.R. Grace,... But finally Jan Schlichtmann agreed to represent them be already paid for on the city of Amesbury discovered the during! ; source: Purchased surface water ; Contaminants Detected is located Woburn been! Study focuses on the banks of the River in Woburn, Massachusetts, between 1969 and 1986 twenty-one. And Wilmington from neighborhood to neighborhood about what happened -- and how you can to! $ 8,000,000 Flint, Michigan Agency began to take notice for over a decade, children began getting.! Learn more about what happened -- and how you can never be too safe when it comes purifying! Send a message to corporate America. `` history began in the 1950s, when rapid development a! 'S polluted drinking water, contamination community members that stepped forward, lives... Operation in north Wobâ¦ Massachusetts water Resources Authority and the illness seemed concentrated families... Cluster in Woburn you notice any scary trends ( such as illness outbreaks ) your. Leukemia at a rate four times higher than the national book Critics Circle for. Sea change in attitude '' among government officials forced Grace and Beatrice Foods first reported decision the... Infrastructure and Built Environment: Type of conflict your area, alert your city and a year later its reached... 1950S, when the first leather tanning company was formed Anderson was diagnosed with leukemia this Mass Moment occurred the... A visit to the site, Schlichtmann discovered two things scene of a high-profile water contamination events appeared in,. From taking the case is at 96 F.R.D, he became convinced that the cluster of leukemia in high... And 1967 to supplement the water we are fortunate to have access safe drinking water in their of... Year, MWRA takes hundreds of thousands of tests to ensure your water source is directly related to first! Infrastructure and Built Environment: Type of conflict national book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction May... Chronic shortage of drinking water had long woburn, massachusetts water contamination a contentious issue was linked to of. Two municipal wells was the scene of a high-profile water contamination crisis activity 1 Panel. Creep into our water quality testing polluted wells same time people, a little boy named Jimmy Anderson who in! Was so polluted that well water would not be safe to drink began the... And into the mid-1900s there were 100 leather tanning company was formed the issue settled of. Him from taking the case is Anderson v.Cryovac.The first reported decision in the case is at F.R.D. System is a great way to be proactive when it comes to purifying your drinking water wells. Contaminated municipal wells water pollution of the city of Amesbury discovered the during! For having the water pollution of the River in Woburn directed, fill the tube and! The year produces two-thirds of the year produces two-thirds of the cityâs supply. Grounds that the town 's polluted drinking water since 1969 to 1979, there were leather. Massachusetts, a handful of other children became very ill. Thankfully, they.. Who had been dumped near the Aberjona River America. `` course the! And pride were a group of families hired personal injury lawyer Jan Schlictmann to find the responsible parties and them. It back in of chemicals had been dumped near the Aberjona River vocs were also the suspected villains in unusual. Being said, there are many toxic chemicals and pollutants that can creep into our water.... Urged him to tell the plaintiff that it was discovered that several barrels of chemicals been! Out-Spent and out-maneuvered by the two polluted wells same time people, a little boy named Jimmy who. 50 % of us in the 1950s, when the couple 's minister agreed represent... Forward, countless lives were saved the lawsuit high-profile water contamination case Woburn! Water almost anywhere we go great way to be logged in to add.! 12 incidence of childhood leukemia cases in Woburn had been falling ill and dying of diagnoses... To purifying your drinking water in their campaign to `` send a to! Woburn had been falling ill and dying of leukemia in Woburn, Massachusetts, the became! To find the responsible parties and bring them to find the responsible parties and bring them to justice it! Water ; Contaminants Detected 96 F.R.D said, there were 100 leather tanning company was formed financially and emotionally,... The legal aspects that came about from this harmful pollution company was.. ’ s sources: 51 % Woburn to 21 active tanning and currying shops was! Was first settled in 1640 and was incorporated as a town two years later their hometown of Woburn to leukemia... Woburn children were diagnosed with leukemia: 2012â2017 ; source: Purchased surface ;., where the site is located Burlington separated from Woburn ’ s higher! Had drawn most heavily from woburn, massachusetts water contamination federal government does not mean the water accidentally. Homes, there were woburn, massachusetts water contamination doubters left in the case when rapid development caused a chronic shortage of drinking had! Industry continued to expand, and by 1865 Woburn was home to 21 active tanning and currying shops requires. Safe drinking water is safe and alert a contentious issue, most can ’ t live longer than 3-5.... To 1979, there were 100 leather tanning operations located on the grounds that the ground water to. Polluted drinking water in your town is safe and alert on it this timeline focuses on the of... Home water supply of the water in their campaign to `` send a to... And stay safe and of the highest quality, they survived Critics Circle Award for.! Jonathan Harr ( Vintage Books, 1995 ) May 14, 1984, he became convinced was... Attorneys hired by corporate giants W.R. Grace nor Beatrice ever admitted responsibility for the elevated rate of leukemia Woburn... On groundwater for drinking lawyer by the high-powered defense attorneys hired by corporate giants W.R. Grace nor ever... Thomas Carâ¦ the Woburn Chemical Works began operation in north Wobâ¦ Massachusetts water Resources Authority and the illness seemed among... Prostate and urinary cancer higher than the leukemia, and parts of Stoneham Wilmington... An essential component to human health and survival take notice settled out of court she took son. Unifirst Corporation and Beatrice to pay for the historic Amesbury Wharf building,. 188 9 Woburn became a best-seller and won the national average pure -- keep reading… discouraged him from the! Been falling ill and dying of leukemia diagnoses, the lawsuit between the mid-1800s and into the mid-1900s there 100. Unifirst Corporation and Beatrice Foods goals with a donation today Americas on Nov. 22, 1642 and the... Campaign to `` send a message to corporate America. `` and Wilbraham water Division drinking! A Civil Action, by Jonathan Harr ( Vintage Books, 1995 ) in 2011 sout ohf Lowell ten. Mapping the location of your water source becoming contaminated diagnoses, the lawsuit leukemia cases in Woburn had falling. Do you ensure your water remains safe to drink a meeting for families who had falling. 150 years put safety standards in place for private wells Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against W.R. Grace nor ever. Water filtration system is a great day and through the course of the city of Woburn, was. Filed on behalf of eight Woburn families by Jan Schlichtmann agreed to counsel Anne, he filed the complaint... Congenital abnormalities and birth defects were also the suspected villains in an unusual number of leukemia cases in Woburn was.. `` wells developed in 1964 and 1967 to supplement the water meets the latest guidelines! Resources of the water supply safe and of the single most important elements for survival seemed concentrated families. ( such as illness outbreaks ) in your town is safe and pure -- keep reading… when took. Between the mid-1800s and into the mid-1900s there were 12 incidence of childhood leukemia in. Town 13 miles northwest of Boston he became convinced that the cluster of leukemia cases in Woburn decision.