Homeowners Concerned Over Arsenic in Danvers, Massachusetts

Health concerns are plaguing homeowners in Danvers, Massachusetts.

The state's Department of Environmental Protection wants to test for arsenic on several properties located near the former site of a tannery in town.

"We bought this house in January," said resident David Howland. "Unfortunately, it was stuff that was here. We have to deal with it."

Unbeknownst to Howland, his property on Ash Street abuts the former Bernard and Friedman tannery, which was torn down nearly a century ago. In 2011, high arsenic levels were discovered near the site at Brown Pond when environmental officials were studying arsenic levels related to another tannery.

A recent analysis of the area found the levels to be 10 times higher than recommended, according to the DEP.

"Public safety is our first priority, and we want to inform folks of what's going on," said town manager Steve Bartha.

Members of the DEP met with town officials and residents Thursday night to explain the problem and ask homeowners for permission to test soil on their properties. While the town will cover the cost of initial testing, it's unclear if residents will have to pay for any potential cleanup.

"There were tanneries all over Massachusetts, and many of these closed in 1910," explained Bartha. "And there are no records. Frankly, it's a multi-year process."

First, the town needs to receive approval from all residents to test, which they hope to get by the start of summer. After that, the timeline and cost will depend on what they uncover.

"If it's on my property, it has to be cleared," Howland said. "Just take care of it."

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