Conway Park

Site Contact:
Gary Lipson
On-Scene Coordinator

Site Location:
550 Somerville Ave
Somerville, MA 02143

The 2.8-acre Conway Park Site is owned by the City of Somerville (the City) and used as a recreational complex. It consists of a large ball field, a children’s playground, and a splash pad.  The lots that eventually became the park had been used for industrial purposes for more than 100 years prior to the City claiming ownership in 1937 by virtue of a tax taking.

Since the city acquired the property, the park and adjacent parcels have all been redeveloped from their former industrial uses into public recreational facilities. The park itself has gone through a number of renovations and improvements over the years.

In 2017, the City hired a consultant to conduct an environmental assessment in preparation for planned redesign work at the park. Due to the exceedances under the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) Contingency Plan of reportable concentrations of a number of hazardous substances, (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and lead), a supplemental investigation was conducted in the spring of 2018.

Based on the results of these investigations, the City fenced-off the playground and restricted access to the entire Site.  In the summer of 2018, additional environmental assessment work was conducted to further delineate the extent of PCBs and lead throughout the Site. A risk characterization concluded that a portion of the playground area was safe for the general public to use and after consultation with the MassDEP and EPA, the City re-opened that portion of the playground in the fall of 2018.

In early 2019, a geophysical survey followed by test pitting was conducted on a portion of the ballfield where the highest concentrations of PCBs were detected. Obvious layers of fill were noted which were generally observed to be between 3 feet and 8 feet to 12 feet below ground. Debris included brick, fire brick, rubber gaskets, scrap metal, cobblestone, glass, and a number of potential capacitors.   

In April 2019, MassDEP requested EPA assistance with cleaning up Site soil, notably where elevated PCB concentrations are present as a direct contact risk and equal to or above 50 parts per million in subsurface soils.  In subsequent discussions between EPA and the City, Somerville expressed interest in working cooperatively with EPA. EPA and the City agreed to address cleanup of the site under a carefully coordinated mixed-work approach, with EPA expected to spend up to approximately $3 million in cleanup work and the City performing the rest of the work (estimated to cost at least $3 million) under EPA oversight. In addition, the City intends to implement Park improvements and upgrades following clean-up activities.

An Administrative Order on Consent and an accompanying Statement of Work, which effectively divides the cost and work tasks between Somerville and EPA, was signed on July 20, 2020.