It was discovered that several barrels of chemicals had been dumped near the Aberjona River. "Toxic Legacy —Behind — and Beyond — 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, 1780–1863, 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, 1800–1855: 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 —a 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 — identified as Wells G and H — 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 — 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, it’s 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 … 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. [1] Complaint Filed on Toxic Pollution in Woburn - May 14, 1984 [click to view] [2] 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 Wob… “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 … 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 “A Civil Action”, 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] [3] 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. 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