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Grace guilty of tainting Woburn water.

Grace guilty of tainting Woburn water

Two years ago, a low-cost epidemiologic survey conducted by the residents of Woburn, Mass. (under the guidance of researchers at the Harvard University School of Public Health in Boston) showed that Woburn's leukemia rate was 24 times the national average. The risk of leukemia was highest, according to the researchers, in homes receiving the largest proportion of their drinking water from two city wells that previously had been shown to be heavily contaminated with toxic chemicals, including chloroform and trichloroethylene -- known carcinogens (SN:2/18/84,p.104). There was also an elevated risk of certain birth detects among those whose homes got more than 20 percent of their drinking water from the two wells.

On July 28 a Boston jury found W.R. Grace & Co. of New York City guilty of contaminating those wells with chemical wastes. The Chicago-based Beatrice Cos. was cleared of charges that its hazardous wastes also contaminated the well water.

The case was brought by the families of seven leukemia victims (six of whom died) and of children with several other illnesses. These families charged that the diseases resulted from the water's chemical contamination. Still to be determined by the jury is whether there is sufficient evidence to link the observed contamination with the plaintiffs' health claims.

W.R. Grace's only response to the initial jury finding was a formal statement saying it was "disappointed" but confident it would be "fully vindicated during the next phase [of the trial] which will deal with the medical aspects."
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Title Annotation:W.R. Grace and Co., Woburn, Massachusetts
Publication:Science News
Date:Aug 16, 1986
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