Schneider Electric looks to shackle Foxborough with Neponset Reservoir contamination

Legacy contamination in the reservoir must be cleaned up.

Foxborough’s Neponset Reservoir is a vibrant community resource, providing opportunities for fishing, paddling and boating. The man-made reservoir also supports abundant wildlife, including swans, eagles, cranes, turtles, beavers and fish. But it’s hiding a potential hazard that the town’s residents have been working to eliminate for decades.

Years ago, the Foxboro Company discharged industrial wastewater into Gudgeon Brook which emptied into the reservoir. While the wastewater discharge stopped in the 1980s, a legacy of heavy metal and phosphorous contamination in the Neponset Reservoir remains. In particular, high concentrations of cadmium are present in certain parts of the reservoir sediments (lying on the bottom of the reservoir). Cadmium is a known human carcinogen, and presents a significant risk of harm to humans in certain situations.

The Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP) is a set of state regulations (or rules) governing the cleanup of contaminated sites by responsible parties—those who caused the contamination, or those who inherit liability for that contamination.

Schneider Electric, Inc. inherited liability for the Neponset Reservoir contamination when it purchased the Foxboro Company. Schneider Electric has therefore gone through a public process of studying the contamination (overseen by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP)).

The rules require the company to come up with a plan to clean up the site so that contaminants are reduced to levels normally found in the environment and present no significant risk to human health or safety, public welfare, or the environment.

Schneider Electric earlier this year filed a proposed final solution to the site asserting that the contamination requires no cleanup because it currently presents no risk to those using the reservoir. The company concluded this after its study of the reservoir found that cadmium is largely contained in the sediments at the bottom of the lake, rather than in the water, and therefore humans and animals don’t come into contact with it. The company also stated that new sediment coming into the reservoir will bury and spread the cadmium out, ultimately reducing the concentration to lower levels.

Finally, the company stated that removing the contaminated sediment would violate the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act and therefore couldn’t be part of the solution.

For several reasons, we don’t believe the proposed solution is a solution at all. Moreover, we believe Schneider has failed to do a proper analysis and therefore the data doesn’t support the conclusions in their proposal.

NepRWA joined with the (understandably) outraged residents and officials of Foxborough and submitted comments to DEP (which you may read here) demanding that the agency reject the proposal.

Schneider must clean up the legacy contamination in the reservoir. MassDEP should not allow the company to pass on the responsibility to clean the site to the residents of Foxborough.

Questions? Contact Kerry Snyder at

November 2018


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