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Agencies Propose $1.65 Million for Tewksbury Sutton Brook Wetlands Remediation

In 2009, 49 responsible parties agreed to pay $30 million to clean up the 53-acre Sutton Brook Disposal Area Superfund Site, which is located in the area of South St. in Tewksbury, extending into Wilmington. While not safe for passive recreation, the site now provides a habitat for local plants and animals. And in June 2020, MassDEP approved the town of Tewksbury’s request to install solar arrays. 

It took a lot of time, work and money to get there. Now, the site’s trustees propose to spend $1.65 million to fund two projects located at Poplar St. and Mollie Drive that would restore wetland, floodplain and groundwater resources. Removal of debris at Mollie Drive, seen below, will be part of the project.

Longtime area residents will remember that in 1999, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported hundreds of buried 55-gallon drums near what was Rocco’s Dump. During 2000, the EPA removed approximately 25,000 yards of soil and 300 to 400 drums. Later, a contractor removed 135,000 cubic yards of waste, trucked in about 466,000 tons of fill, capped the dump “lobes,” constructed 132,000 square feet of wetlands, and added a 48 foot barrier wall and 1.8 million square feet of liner.

Capping work was completed in 2015. Learn more about Sutton Brook here.

In 2019, the EPA’s last major review, the agency issued a comprehensive report on the condition of the site.

Now, 23 years later, there is a plan by MassDEP to further restore town wetlands. That draft restoration plan is available online and is a two part proposal: The Poplar Street Wetland and Groundwater Restoration Project and Mollie Drive Wetland and Floodplain Restoration Project.

The former project at Poplar St. includes removal of fill placed in historic wetlands and restoration of habitat, management of invasive species and improvement of a Town conservation property for increased passive recreation use.

The Mollie Drive Restoration Project is located on Town-owned conservation land on an approximately five-acre parcel that stretches from behind the Knights of Columbus building to just beyond the cul-de-sac at the end of Mollie Drive. Restoration would entail two primary components: removal of fill piles and scattered debris and restoration of buried wetlands.

Once these components have been completed, further development of a trail network, canoe/kayak launch or other amenities to increase passive restoration on the site could be implemented by, or in conjunction with, the Town.

We encourage residents to take a look at the plan and submit comments no later than Dec. 9, 2022. Contact information can be found here.

Lorna is a 25-year resident of Tewksbury who has written for organizations ranging from the DIA to InformationWeek to a free weekly in New London that sent her to interview the pastry chef at Foxwoods.

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