Tobin School Soil & Air Contamination and Remediation Timeline

Tobin School Soil & Air Contamination and Remediation Timeline
Freedom Baird
Cambridge, MA
Last updated: June 1, 2011


This document is a condensed collection of publicly available information about the soil & air issues of the Tobin School in Cambridge, MA. All text below is paraphrased from cited sources. References are listed at the end. Thank you to folks who reviewed drafts of this! Comments, corrections, additions welcome.

1 Early History of the Site
2 Development, Contamination, & School Construction Timeline
3 Air Quality Problems, Testing, and Remediation Timeline
4 Soil Testing and Hazard Removal Timeline for Grounds, Playground, and Playing Fields
5 Other Hazard Remediations at the Tobin Site
6 Maps
7 Glossary
8 References 

Early History of the Site
  • Prior to the 1600s the area of West Cambridge was used for Native American food gathering activities.[1]
  • First puritan settlers from Europe arrived in the area around 1630. New building of farms and homes took place during the 1600s and 1700s.[2]
  • During the 1800s, with the onset of electricity and trolleys, the population of Cambridge grew substantially. An ice industry and railroad developed at Fresh Pond. By 1856 the pond became the City’s public water supply.[3]
  • Before it was developed, what is now the site of the Tobin School, Tobin Fields, and Father Callanan playground was a boggy meadow and a pond, called Muskrat Pond.[4]
Development, Contamination, & School Construction Timeline
  • Brickmaking was a predominant industry in North and West Cambridge up until the early 1900s.[5]
  • From 1843-1905 Noah Cofran & Co and later the New England Brick Company had a clay extraction pit on the Tobin School site.[6],[7],[8] A map showing the borders of the clay pit is at the end of this report.
  • In 1905 clay pit operations ended at the Tobin site. The pit filled with water again, and was used as a landfill (garbage dump) for unknown waste materials.[10],[11]
  • In 1927 the clay pit/landfill site was acquired by the City of Cambridge.[12]
  • In 1938 Tobin Field and Father Callanan Playground were built on half of the clay pit/landfill site by the Cambridge Park Commission under the Works Progress Administration program.[12.2] The other half of the site continued to be used as a municipal dump until about 1952.[13],[14]
  • In 1960 the National Guard Armory was built at 450 Concord Ave, over the northwestern corner of the former clay pit/landfill.[15]
  • In 1966 and 1968, in preparation for school construction over the southern portion of the former clay pit/landfill, test borings were done across the property by the New England Test Boring Corporation to determine ground composition. Various types of landfill were noted across the property, down to a level of about twenty feet, with clay below, and a water level of about seven feet below ground.[16] [FB note: When the foundation was dug for the school building, how was the soil handled?]
  • In 1972 the Tobin Elementary School opened to students and staff. It’s opening was delayed a semester because of roof leaks and other structural problems.[17] It’s a three-story building, with the first floor partly below ground level. The first floor contains schoolrooms, cafeteria, kitchen, storage, custodial areas and access to two large crawlspaces. There’s a third crawlspace under the gym.[18] To conserve energy, the building was originally designed with non-openable windows, and a central HVAC system (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), which included univents (unit ventilators) in the classrooms designed to mix, filter, and heat fresh and returned air. [19],[20]
Air Quality Problems, Testing, and Remediation Timeline
  • In the 1970s problems reported by occupants of the Tobin School building included: roof and wall leaks, rain-damaged wall-to-wall carpeting, and noise from the univents which caused teachers to turn them off, limiting the amount of fresh air being pulled into the building interior.[21]
  • In 1979 a Tobin School teacher filed a grievance with the Cambridge Teachers Association (teachers’ union), stating that temperature and air quality problems in the room he taught in for six years were causing him serious respiratory illness. The room was adjacent to one of the crawlspaces. He had taken photos documenting cracks in the slab of that crawlspace, and believed that methane and other fumes coming through the cracks were contributing to his illness. He was eventually fired, was hospitalized and treated for a throat hernia, and was re-hired in a different school.[22],[22.5]
  • In the mid 1980s teachers at the Tobin School filed two class action lawsuits because of air quality issues in the Tobin school building. Ultimately the teachers were refunded more than $11,000 worth of sick days.[23],[23.5]
  • In 1985 NUS Corp (a Haliburton Corporation) did a health risk assessment at the Tobin School, to determine if the landfill under the building & grounds contained materials only from residential dumping, or also from dumping of hazardous materials by local chemical and industrial manufacturers. The Superfund branch of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA[23.7]) reviewed the assessment and determined that “no further remedial action” was necessary. The Tobin School is not classified as a “Superfund” site (i.e. a hazard site that is uncontrolled or abandoned)[24], and is not on the “National Priorities List” of highly toxic sites requiring long-term cleanup,[25] but is listed in the EPA’s Superfund database because it was assessed.[26]
  • In its 1985 report NUS recommended that a low priority, “abbreviated” site inspection be done, including: screening ambient air for volatile organic contaminants (also known as volatile organic compounds or VOCS), visual inspection of the site, and collection and review of historical records, drilling logs and waste disposal records. NUS also recommended that, due to their close proximity, future studies of the Old City Dump be designed to include the Tobin School site.[27], [29.7] [FB note: does “Old City Dump” mean the Tobin site dump, or the Danehy Park site dump?]
  • In 1986 in response to air quality concerns at the Tobin School, the firm Haley & Aldrich was hired to monitor levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and methane in the crawlspaces. H&A found a variety of materials being stored in the crawlspaces, including furniture, machinery, solvents, and paint. They also found elevated methane levels in all three crawlspaces.[28] To eliminate methane accumulation and to prevent a fire hazard, H&A recommended sealing the separated or settled floor slab areas of the crawlspaces.[29]

As garbage in a landfill decomposes, it releases landfill gas, which contains methane, carbon dioxide, and other gases. The released methane can enter a building built on top the landfill.[29.5] VOCs in a building built over landfill can come from chemicals in the landfill, or from solvents, paint and other materials inside the building.[29.7]

  • In 1987 the Tobin School site was included on a list of sites suspected, but not confirmed, of being contaminated by hazardous waste. The list was issued by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Quality Engineering to comply with a 1986 Massachusetts referendum on toxic waste.[30]
  • In 1989 openable replacement windows were installed throughout the Tobin School building.[31]
  • In 1990 a group of parents of children at the Tobin School organized themselves around concerns that the school had “sick building syndrome[32], and was making their children sick with fatigue, respiratory conditions, asthma, and other illnesses.[33]
  • In 1990-1991 the firm Environmental Health & Engineering (EH&E) was hired to further address Tobin School air quality. They conducted an indoor air quality assessment, monitoring for pollutants including VOCs, dust particles, pesticides, microbes, dust mites and carbon dioxide. They also assessed the ventilation system.[34]
  • In 1991 EH&E published a report including recommendations to improve indoor air quality in the Tobin School [35] including:
    • Repair and seal breaks in the foundation
    • Remove water-damaged carpet and disinfect underlying areas with bleach solution
    • Keep humidifiers extremely clean
    • Examine and maintain univents for proper functioning, replacing malfunctioning parts as needed
    • Familiarize occupants with univent function and encourage them to keep univents turned on
    • Lower temperature settings and adjust diffusers to increase air movement and enhance comfort levels
    • Reduce noise generated by univents
    • Long-term recommendations included the modification or replacement of existing ventilation systems in response to increases in class size or changes to room usage
  •  In 1991, due to continued air quality and crawlspace concerns at the Tobin School, the firm Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH) was hired. SGH recommended and oversaw the following remedial services by contractors, which were completed by September 1991: [36]
    • Removed materials stored in the crawlspaces
    • Monitored for indoor methane and VOC levels. Methane levels were found to be “unacceptably high”.
    • Investigated soil gases beneath the crawlspace slab. Found elevated levels of VOCs and methane (see GEI below).
    • Installed a temporary membrane barrier and sealant in crawlspaces
    • Installed a sub-slab ventilation system in crawlspaces and the floor of Room 129. (This system is designed to intercept and remove soil gases before they are drawn into the air circulation of the building [37]).
    • Installed and tested an HVAC system upgrade
    • Designed and installed a permanent crawlspace barrier
  • In October 1991 Geotechnical Engineers Inc (GEI) was hired to test for gases in the soil beneath the crawlspaces of the Tobin School. In November they notified the Cambridge Public School Department that the tests showed elevated levels of methane and VOCs in the soil beneath the crawlspaces. Levels in the soil below the east crawlspace were “significant”. As required by law, the Cambridge Public School Department (CPSD) directed GEI to notify the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) of a “release or potential threat of release of hazardous materials.”[38] Shorthand for this is a “release”.
  • In December 1991, MassDEP concluded there was no “imminent hazard” in the Tobin School, as the crawlspace sub-slab ventilation system that had been installed the month before was operating as designed. GEI recommended continued operation of the system to prevent methane and VOCs from being drawn into the air of occupied areas of the building.[39]
  • In October 1991 the firm OccuHealth conducted air testing in the Tobin School for methane and VOCs (at the same time that GEI was doing soil gas testing there). Air samples were collected from each of the sub-slab ventilation system’s exhaust stacks, and from classrooms, crawlspaces, and outside. OccuHealth found that VOC levels in all areas of the school were within expected indoor ranges posted by the EPA. Trace levels of methane were also detected.[40]
  • To maintain methane levels at lower readings OccuHealth recommended the following: [41]
    • Install a supervised methane gas monitoring system in the three crawlspaces and the main hallway above the cafeteria
    • Conduct bimonthly methane monitoring for classrooms, crawlspaces, ventilation stack gases, and ambient air
  • In 1991 OccuHealth also conducted an assessment of the Tobin School’s ventilation system. They recommended replacement of the existing univent system, and energy management measures to conserve energy and improve control of the HVAC system. Their recommendations included conversion of the hot water heater from electric to natural gas, and upgrading of the large HVAC units for the auditorium, gymnasium and general areas with new gas-fired rooftop units.[42] [FB note: are these the HVAC and univent upgrades that were done in 2002? or were there interim upgrades?]
  • In 1992 OccuHealth again monitored for methane. The initial assessment found no methane and good air pressure at the test ports. The major exception was Room 129, where no negative pressure was detected. This was attributed to a potential blockage or improper installation. An investigation was launched to determine the cause for lack of pressure in this area. Subsequent monitoring was conducted monthly. Follow-up reports showed that methane levels were being effectively controlled by the crawlspace ventilation system. OccuHealth recommended continued operation of the system.[43]
  • In 1992 Cambridge Arborist Jack Kelly checked on the vegetation and trees surrounding Tobin School and noted that although several of them were suffering from fungal infections, they did not show evidence of methane poisoning – the effects of which he was very familiar with from the city’s efforts at landscaping the other nearby former landfill, Danehy Park.[44]
  • In 1997 MassDEP and CPSD, following legal protocol, hired the firm Camp Dresser & McKee (CDM) to assess if there had been a “release” of contaminants from the landfill directly beneath the Tobin School building, and to evaluate the hazards associated with the landfill material. CDM did the following: [45]
    • A ground conductivity survey to map the location of the fill materials
    • Groundwater testing from existing monitoring wells in the area
    • Soil gas testing from beneath the school and from the roof vent stacks
  • CDM reported that groundwater in direct contact with landfill materials under the building showed “no evidence of total petroleum hydrocarbons [from gasoline and diesel fuel], VOCs, semi-VOCs or trace metal contamination”. CDM concluded: [46]
    • No landfill material was found on ground surfaces [inside the building], therefore the risk of exposure through direct contact was unlikely
    • The potential for groundwater exposure to hazardous materials inside the building was unlikely
    • The lack of fill decomposition halted methane generation [FB note: does this mean that the sealed slab was keeping methane out? or that the landfill was no longer releasing methane?]
    • Any remaining VOCs and methane were actively being eliminated by the crawlspace ventilation system therefore any potential for inhalation exposure was also unlikely
  • In 1997, as a result of the CDM assessment, MassDEP classified the Tobin School as “Tier 2”, a site with lower potential risk to human health and/or the environment.[47], [47.5]
  • The MassDEP database shows that, as of March 1999, the Tobin site’s “Release Type” is listed as “Remedial Action Outcome (RAO), Class A3” (rather than “Tier 2”). This means that: remediation work was completed and a level of “No Significant Risk” has been achieved; that a permanent solution has been achieved; and that contamination has not been reduced to background levels, and an Activity and use Limitation (AUL) has been implemented.[47.7] [FB note: Why does the MassDEP database show some hazard sites as “Tier 2”, and others as “ROA”?]
  • In 1999 OccuHealth conducted indoor air monitoring after water was found entering offices through a roof leak. OccuHealth recommended affected areas be “fogged” with an anti-microbial sanitizer to remove possible mold.[48]
  • In 2000 continued complaints of indoor air quality at the Tobin School prompted requests for additional tests by OccuHealth. They tested for airborne fungi, dust, and VOCs. They concluded that: [49]
    • fungi concentrations were “well within accepted levels”
    • all fungal types identified were commonly found in building environments
    • dust types found in the building were common types typically found in schools
    • types included dust generated by building occupants & building materials, and dust from outdoors
    • the intense activity level and increased flow of outdoor air contributed to elevated particle measurements
    • a majority of areas sampled had VOC levels that were “very close to normal”
    • Slightly elevated VOC levels measured in some areas could be attributed to recent painting activities at the school
    • OccuHealth concluded that the test results confirmed that the sub-slab ventilation system was operating as designed
  • In 2002, at the request of the Cambridge Health Department, the Bureau of Environmental Health Assessment (BEHA, an office of MassDEP) coordinated visits to the Tobin school to assess health hazards there. Visitors were BEHA officials, school officials, and environmental analysts. Based on air-testing results and other observations, they made short- and long-term recommendations for indoor air quality remediation and maintenance.[50]
  • BEHA’s short-term recommendations included: [51]
    • Carefully inspect and provide maintenance to all univents and HVAC equipment. Keep all ventilation systems running all the time when school is in session. Remove blockages from univents and other vents.
    • Adopt scrupulous cleaning practices in the building. De-clutter classrooms to allow for better cleaning. Keep animal cages clean.
    • Report any roof, wall, or plumbing leaks for prompt repair and remediation of water damage.
    • Store cleaning products, paints, flammables, and other chemicals according to protocol.
    • Create a system for building occupants to report air quality issues in writing for timely remediation.
    • Keep photocopiers, computers and other heat generating office equipment away from thermostats.
    • Consider adopting the EPA document, “Tools for Schools” as a method for maintaining good indoor air quality environment.
    • Use resource manuals and other indoor air quality documents for further building-wide evaluations and maintenance advice.
  • BEHA’s long-term recommendations included: [52]
    • Examine the feasibility of replacing univent fresh air intakes with vertical louvers with properly pitched grilles.
    • Repair/replace seams between pilasters and concrete support beams in the exterior wall blocks. Consider installing flashing in these seams.
    • Repair/replace missing or damaged window caulking and gaskets building-wide to prevent water penetration through window frames. Examine all water-damaged materials for microbial growth and structural integrity. Repair water damaged ceilings, walls, and wall-plaster as necessary.
    • Consider installing ceiling-mounted univents or other air-handling equipment in ground floor classrooms and the cafeteria to prevent flooding during heavy rain.
  • In 2002 the classroom HVAC system was replaced, univents were replaced, and a number of damaged and malfunctioning louvers were subsequently replaced.[53] [FB note: were all the univents replaced? what about the other long-term recommendations?]
  • As of December 2003 there was a class action suit pending against the Cambridge Teachers Association (teachers union) for continuing health complaint.[54] [FB note: Is this the same or different from the earlier suits? What’s the current status of it?]
Soil Testing and Hazard Removal Timeline for Grounds, Playground, and Playing Fields
  • In January 1998 Carlone & Associates, in evaluating sites on which to build the West Cambridge Youth Center, identified that use of the Tobin Field site, behind the Tobin School, might involve environmental remediation.[55]
  • In 1998 the firm Camp Dresser & McKee (CDM) was hired to sample and analyze the soil and groundwater of the Tobin School grounds, playground, and playing fields.[56]
  • CDM found elevated lead in some of the ground water samples, and also determined that there was minimal groundwater migration (movement) beneath the site.[58]
  • CDM stated that contaminants found in the soil and groundwater were consistent with the landfilling history of the former clay pit. The lead concentrations were typical of urban landfill (garbage), and the PAH concentrations were typical of ash in landfill (from burned garbage).[59] [FB note: sources of lead from urban landfill from that era include pewter, paint, bullets and shot, batteries, solder, leaded gasoline, what else?]
  • In 1998 CDM removed contaminated soil at the Tobin School and grounds site. The excavation was 3,300 sq feet across, and was 3’ deep, except for 100 sq feet of it which was 5’ deep.[60]
  • The excavated soil (688.15 tons) was temporarily stockpiled on site. Later it was analyzed and transported to the GCR Inc landfill in Peabody, Massachusetts for use as daily cover.[61] (Daily cover is dirt used at a landfill site to layer over daily garbage deposits[62]).
  • CDM took additional soil samples – deeper than 3’ – during the excavation, and found elevated PAHs and lead in a random distribution, typical of landfill. They also determined that the lead in the groundwater is a direct result of contact with the contaminated soil. CDM stated that how deep the contamination goes down into the Tobin site soil is unknown.[63]
  •  CDM stated that if the City wanted to remove all contaminated soil at the site, they would have to excavate the former clay pit/landfill completely. The soil removal process would be elaborate, several months long, would require temporary shut-down of the school, and would be very expensive – soil disposal alone would cost at least 6 million dollars. Complete soil removal was deemed infeasible.[64]
  • CDM filled in the excavated areas with clean soil. [FB Note: in its report, CDM doesn’t say where they acquired the clean soil, or what type of soil it is.]
  • Since any soil contaminants below the re-filled areas would still be there, an “Activity and Use Limitation” notice (AUL) was put in place to restrict access to soil and groundwater at depths greater than three feet.[65] An AUL is a legal notice that indicates which activities are restricted and permitted at a site which has had a “release” of environmental hazards.[66]

In Massachusetts, sites with a documented “release” of oil or other environmental hazards are listed in a searchable MassDEP database. Here’s some relevant data from the database:[68]

– There are 830 hazard sites in Cambridge.
– Of these 830, a sub-set of 88 sites have an Activity and Use Limitation notice (AUL).
Maps of all the hazard sites in Cambridge (both AUL and non-AUL) are at the end of this report.[67]
– In Massachusetts, there are 604 schools located at hazard sites. Some of these sites have been completely remediated.
– In Massachusetts there are 38 schools located at hazard sites with an AUL.
– Two of those 38 schools are in Cambridge: the Tobin School, and Matignon High School.

  • In 1999 CDM prepared the “Activity and Use Limitation” (AUL) notice for the Tobin School building and grounds. After the soil removal and replacement, CDM’s risk assessment concluded that there was no significant risk of harm to health, safety, public welfare, or the environment from exposure to surface soil across the site, if the site is used according to the AUL. Potential risks do exist for direct contact with soil and groundwater at depths greater than three feet.[69],[70]

The Tobin site AUL states that permitted activities include typical activities of education and recreation, and also typical, temporary maintenance activities. Not permitted are activities that require disturbing the soil below three feet deep. Also, it’s required that the pavement, school building foundation, and top layer of soil be properly maintained. If the soil must be disturbed below 3′ (e.g. for maintenance or construction), a Licensed Site Professional (LSP) must be involved, and MassDEP health and safety protocols must be followed.[71], [71.5]

  • In 2002 MassDEP conducted a standard AUL compliance review for the Tobin site. In the review, MassDEP identified an error in the original AUL. MassDEP asked that the AUL be amended to: adequately define permitted uses of the site; delineate the boundaries of the paved areas to be maintained; and prohibit the site from being used in the future for residential use, because contamination remaining in the soil exceeds the Method 1, S-1 soil standards.[72],[72.5]
  • In 2002 the Tobin site Activity and Use Limitation (AUL) notice was amended by CDM. Permitted usage of the school and grounds by the Tobin School community remained the same. The new notice states that an amendment to the original AUL was necessary to ensure that a condition of No Significant Risk is maintained at the site. The amendment states that use of the property as a residence and/or activities consistent with residential use are not permitted on the site because of the significant risk of harm to health, safety, public welfare or the environment.[73] [FB note: why can it be used for a school, but not for a residence?]
Other Hazard Remediations at the Tobin Site
  • In February 2004 the Cambridge City Manager reported on Cambridge’s process of phasing out playgrounds built with pressure-treated lumber due to health hazards associated with that type of lumber. This included the Tobin School’s playground, built in the 1970s.[74]
  • In 2007 $400,000 was allocated in the Cambridge city budget for renovations to the Father Callanan Playground at the Tobin School.[75]
  • In 2007 groundwater monitoring was done at and around the Fresh Pond Mobil gas station site, which includes the western portion of the Tobin School and grounds.[77]
  • Renovations and improvements to Father Callanan Playground at the Tobin School were completed in 2008.[76]
  • April 2011, CPSD School Committee Member Alice Turkel has requested that the Office of the Superintendent update the School Committee about past and present health issues and remediations relating to the Tobin School and the land around it.[78]

[FB note: Need info about recent times. Some questions:

– What has been current Tobin School students, teachers, and staff experience there?
– What air & soil testing and maintenance work has been done on the building in the last 10 years?
– Is the landfill still releasing methane and VOCs under the building?
– In what condition is the methane gas monitoring system in the crawlspaces and elsewhere?
– In what condition are the sub-slab ventilation system, univents, and HVAC?
– Because of the type of contaminants remaining at the site after remediation, the AUL was amended in 2002, to exclude use of the site for a residence. Why can the site be used for a school, but not for a residence?
– What is the plan for long-term stewardship [79] of the Tobin School, grounds, and landfill, including keeping the community informed about the status of the site?
– What studies have been done on long-term effects on occupants of schools built over urban landfill? ]


Map showing clay pit/landfill outline at Tobin School site, from:
ROS Status Report – Mobil Station – 343 Fresh Pond Parkway 2007-2008
Prepared by:
Groundwater & Environmental Services, Inc
364 Littleton Road, Suite 4, Westford, MA 01886

Clay pit outline at Tobin School





Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection – MassDEP 
Waste Site / Reportable Releases Look Up
Map of all waste sites in Cambridge that contain a “reportable release” of environmental hazards (including AUL sites and non-AUL sites) – there are 830 as of May 2011

All hazard sites in Cambridge May 2011

Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection – MassDEP 
Waste Site / Reportable Releases Look Up
Map of all waste sites in Cambridge that contain a “reportable release” of environmental hazards, and require an “Activity and Use Limitations” (AUL) notice – there are 88 as of May 2011

AUL sites in Cambridge May 2011





Daily cover
Daily cover is the layer of compressed soil or earth laid on top of a day’s deposit of garbage at a landfill site. The cover helps prevent interaction between the waste and the air, reducing odors and providing a firm base for vehicles to operate.
Paraphrased from Wikipedia

Ground conductivity
Ground conductivity refers to the electrical conductivity of the subsurface of the earth. It is sometimes used in determining the efficiency of a septic tank, using electromagnetic induction, as part of a process to insure that contaminants do not reach the surface or nearby water supplies.
Paraphrased from Wikipedia

Landfill gas
Landfill gas is produced when garbage in landfill breaks down (decomposes). The rate of gas production depends on the type of landfill. It’s difficult to predict and control landfill gas production because the contents of landfills are so variable. Landfill gas is about 40-60% methane, with the remainder being mostly carbon dioxide. Landfill gas also contains varying amounts of nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor, sulfur, and other contaminants. Risks of landfill gas include explosion (due to methane buildup), and migration of contaminants into groundwater. The EPA estimates that there are approximately six thousand landfills in the United States. Most of these landfills are composed of municipal waste, and are therefore producing methane. These landfills are the largest source of man-made methane emissions in the United States.
Paraphrased from Wikipedia

Lead is a soft, gray metal. It’s used in building construction, lead-acid batteries, bullets and shots, weights, solders, pewters, and as a radiation shield. Paint containing lead was used (legally) in the US until 1977. In certain concentrations, lead is poisonous to humans and animals. It can accumulate in soft tissues and bone, can cause brain and blood disorders, and can damage the nervous system.
Paraphrased from Wikipedia and

Licensed Site Professional
A Licensed Site Professional (LSP) is an environmental scientist or engineer experienced in the cleanup of oil and hazardous material contamination. The LSP’s job is to work with a client to develop and execute a scope of work that will satisfy the state requirements to address contaminated property, as set forth in Massachusetts General Law c. 21E and the Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP).
Paraphrased from

Methane is a colorless, odorless gas. It’s the main component of natural gas, which has a strong odor added for safety. At certain concentrations, methane is flammable and can be used as fuel. Burning methane produces carbon dioxide and water. Methane is abundant, and useful as a fuel, but because it’s a gas, it’s hard to transport. It’s generally transported in bulk by pipeline as natural gas, or as a liquid by liquid natural gas carriers. Few countries transport it by truck. Methane is the main component of landfill gas. Methane is a greenhouse gas, and a contributor to global climate change.
Paraphrased from Wikipedia

National Priorities List (NPL)
The National Priorities List (NPL) is the list of national priorities among the known releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants throughout the United States and its territories. The NPL is intended primarily to guide the EPA in determining which sites warrant further investigation.
Quoted from:

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are potent atmospheric pollutants that occur in oil, coal, and tar deposits, and are produced as byproducts of fuel burning (fossil fuel or biomass). As a pollutant, they are of concern because some compounds have been identified as carcinogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic. PAHs are also found in cooked foods. Studies have shown that high levels of PAHs are found, for example, in meat cooked at high temperatures such as grilling or barbecuing, and in smoked fish.
Paraphrased from Wikipedia

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)
The term “sick building syndrome” (SBS) is used to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified. The complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone, or may be widespread throughout the building. In contrast, the term “building related illness” (BRI) is used when symptoms of diagnosable illness are identified and can be attributed directly to airborne building contaminants. A 1984 World Health Organization Committee report suggested that up to 30 percent of new and remodeled buildings worldwide may be the subject of excessive complaints related to indoor air quality (IAQ). Often this condition is temporary, but some buildings have long-term problems. Frequently, problems result when a building is operated or maintained in a manner that is inconsistent with its original design or prescribed operating procedures. Sometimes indoor air problems are a result of poor building design or occupant activities.
Quoted from the EPA web site:

Sub-slab ventilation system
A sub-slab ventilation system (also known as sub-slab depressurization system) is designed to intercept and remove soil gases from below the surface that would otherwise infiltrate into a building.
Paraphrased from:

Superfund is the US federal government’s program to clean up the nation’s uncontrolled and/or abandoned hazardous waste sites. It is also the name of the fund established in 1980 by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). The EPA states that it is “committed to ensuring that remaining National Priorities List hazardous waste sites are cleaned up to protect the environment and the health of all Americans.”
Paraphrased from:

Tier 2
Tier 2 is a category defined by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to describe a certain type of hazard site or hazard “release”. A Tier 2 site is one that has received a total Numerical Ranking System (NRS) score of less than 350, unless the site meets any of the Tier 1 Inclusionary Criteria. Permits are not required at Tier 2 sites and response actions may be performed under the supervision of a Licensed Site Professional (LSP) without prior MassDEP approval. All pre-1993 transition sites that have accepted waivers are categorically Tier 2 sites.
Paraphrased from:

A univent (unit ventilator) draws air from the outdoors through a fresh air intake located on the exterior wall of the building and returns air through an air intake located at the base of the unit. Fresh and return air are mixed, filtered, heated and provided to classrooms through an air diffuser located in the top of the unit. Adjustable louvers control the ratio of outside to recirculated air.
Paraphrased from:

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
The mission of the US EPA is to protect human health and the environment.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemical compounds which have significant vapor pressures, and can affect the environment and human health. VOCs are numerous, varied, and ubiquitous. They are both man-made and naturally occurring. VOCs include benzene, propane, and other compounds found in solvents, paint thinners, and dry-cleaning agents. VOCs are used in the manufacture of paints, glue, petroleum products, and refrigerants. Man-made VOCs are regulated, especially for indoors where concentrations can be highest. VOCs are typically not acutely toxic but have chronic effects. Because the concentrations are usually low and the symptoms slow to develop, analysis of VOCs and their effects is a demanding area.
Paraphrased from Wikipedia and from the Unites States Geological Survey web site

Works Progress Administration
The Works Progress Administration was a New Deal agency set up by President Roosevelt during the Great Depression to provide jobs and income. It employed millions of unskilled workers to build many public works projects, in cooperation with state and local governments, including buildings, roads, and parks. It also operated arts and literacy projects, and redistributed food and housing.
Paraphrased from Wikipedia




1, 2, 3, 5, 6 
Neighborhood Ten: Neighborhood Study – Spring 2007
City of Cambridge
Community Development Department, 344 Broadway, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139

4, 8, 11, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 28, 33, 44, 54 
The School of the Future: The Social Construction of Environmental Hazard in the Post-industrial Fringe
A Senior Thesis by Bridget Corbett Hanna
Bard College, Annandale-on Hudson, NY
December 2003

7,10,14,15, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 63, 64, 65, 69, 71 
Notice of Activity and Use Limitation – Tobin Elementary School – February 1999
Prepared by Camp Dresser & McKee (CDM)
50 Hampshire Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139

Open Space and Recreation Plan 2009‐2016
City of Cambridge, Massachusetts

18, 29, 31, 34, 35, 36, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53 
Indoor Air Quality Assessment – John M. Tobin School – February 2004
Prepared by:
Massachusetts Department of Public Health
Bureau of Environmental Health Assessment
Emergency Response/Indoor Air Quality Program 2004.doc

Superfund Database
The Superfund database is searchable on the Environmental Protection Agency web site.

27, 22.5, 23.5  
Archive of Tobin Site Documents
Included are:
– Boston Globe article titled: High levels of toxic gases found in soil under Cambridge school, by Susan Landon, December 25, 1991
– Occuhealth correspondence, reports, and test results for the Tobin site, from 1991
– NUS Corporation (a Haliburton Corporation) documents from 1985

Article: Cambridge Cited for Waste
The Harvard Crimson
January 16, 1987

Definitions of Terms Used in the MassDEP Hazard Sites Database
This web page defines the acronyms and terms used to describe various aspects of reported hazard sites in Massachusetts.

55, 56 
City Manager Letter summarizing the 10-year process to fund and site a West Cambridge youth center
October 17, 2005

66, 70 
Site Activity & Use Limitations (AULs) description page
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP)

MassDEP Database and Maps of Hazardous Waste Sites in Massachusetts
Complete list, maps, and data for waste sites in the State of Massachusetts that contain a “reportable release” of environmental hazards, and/or require an “Activity and Use Limitations” notice:

72, 73 
MassDEP Database Record and Documents for Tobin School site
MassDEP web site
This is the database entry specifically about the Tobin School site, with information and documents about hazard remediation at the site, dating from 1987 through 2002, including, the text of the Activity and Use Limitation, and its 2002 amendment.

Massachusetts Contingency Plan Method 1: Soil Category S-1 Standards
MassDEP web site
A list of possible soil contaminants, and the amounts in which they would have to be present in soil and groundwater, in order for that soil to be categorized as “S-1”.

City Manager Letter outlining Cambridge’s process of removing playgrounds made with pressure-treated lumber
February 23, 2004

2006-2007 City of Cambridge Annual Budget

Father Callanan Playground Improvements at Tobin School
Cambridge Community Development Department

ROS Status Report – Mobil Gas Station – 343 Fresh Pond Parkway 2007-2008
Groundwater & Environmental Services, Inc
364 Littleton Road, Suite 4
Westford, MA 01886

Alice Turkel’s request to the Supt and School Committee for a report on current status of Tobin Site
From CPS online discussion group, a Yahoo Group
Message #1401 of 1493 < Prev | Next >
Thu Apr 14, 2011 12:36 pm
Re: [cpsparents] tobin school and enivironmental safety
Hello all,
I have requested that the Office of the Superintendent update the School Committee about past and present health issues and remediations relating to the Tobin School and the land around it. It is the responsibility of the School Committee to make sure the City and the School Department work together to keep students, faculty and others that use our buildings and grounds safe.
Alice Turkel, School Committee

Long-Term Stewardship of Schools Built on Remediated Sites
by Freshta Abedi, Hiral Dutia, David Muchene, and Rohit Mundra
December 2010
Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Freedom Baird
Cambridge, MA
Comments, corrections, additions to this report are welcome.