Stratford Gets 'Dirty Dozen' Nomination for Raymark

The town's Raymark Superfund site receives undesirable distinction.

An environmental group last week named the Raymark Superfund site in Stratford one of the worst polluters in New England.

"Over the past two decades, the Dirty Dozen Awards have shined a spotlight on egregious polluters and toxic threats in New England," the Toxic Actions center writes in its report, 25 Years of the Dirty Dozen: Past and Current Pollution Threats in New England.

"During this time," the introduction continues, "a number of award winners have changed their poor practices and cleaned up their acts while others have not. This report highlights twelve bad actors, a compilation of the region's worst offenders."

An Asbestos Problem

The Raymark Superfund site is now home to a Walmart, a ShopRite and a Home Depot, though the report states "dozens more toxic waste sites still remain around Stratford...on residential, commercial, and public properties."   

The report says Raymark's inclusion as one of the top 12 polluters in New England relates to health problems associated with asbestos exposure.

"People who have lived in Stratford for a long time can remember digging up shredded brake pads in their backyards. Raymark Industries operated in the town of Stratford from 1919 to 1989, manufacturing gaskets, clutches and asbestos brake linings for the automobile industry."

Though the business employed thousands of town residents and generated millions of dollars of revenue for Stratford, "its facade began to crumble," the report says, in the 1980s when the public became aware of the health problems assiociated with asbestos exposure.

Lawsuits to Bankruptcy

The report states: "Company documents show that longtime president Sumner Simpson had been aware of these health effects for decades without taking measures to protect employees from toxic exposure or even to notify them of the threat. Workers began to file lawsuits against the company in the 1980s.

"Instead of taking responsibility for its misdeeds, Raymark filed for bankruptcy and reorganized its financial assets to avoid the consequences of its actions.

"In the wake of its multiple bankruptcies," the report continues, "Raymark mixed waste from its industrial processes with soil and began distributing it to residents of Stratford for use in gardens and on lawns [without notifying them] that the soil contained high levels of asbestos, lead, copper, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Contamination Spreads, Remains

"Raymark spread its contaminated soil on other sites across the town, including a baseball field, a public park, and forty-six residential properties. Wetlands along the Housatonic River suffered the same fate.

"When the town discovered that Raymark waste contained asbestos, lead, copper, PCBs, and VOCs, they called in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which declared the toxic waste sites throughout town to be a federal Superfund site in 1995."

In 2001, 12 years after declaring bankruptcy, Raymark paid $6.8 billion in personal injury claims and unpaid retirement benefits to workers and hundreds of millions in environmental liabilities, according to the report.


Interested in Stratford news, events, community bulletins, blogs and businesses? Sign up for the free Stratford Patch newsletter, "like" us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.


But the contamination remains.

Despite $200 million of work led by the Environmental Protection Agency and other state and federal agencies, "a toxic plume flows in the groundwater, seeping into homes through their very foundations, [leading the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to install] air filters in over one hundred homes.

"Newcomers to Stratford often move into houses without any information about the extent of the problem because neither the town nor Raymark nor anyone else has any legal obligation to inform them."

'Short-cuts Instead of Solutions'

The report states: "In spite of years of negotiations between EPA and concerned citizens of Stratford, the federal agency's most recent plan proposes short-cuts instead of solutions. Their plan 'will reduce but not eliminate potential direct exposure to Raymark waste' by excavating the remaining toxic sites around town and consolidating the contaminated soil at sites in the middle of densely populated residential neighborhoods."

The report credits a local residential group called SaveStratford.org for "banning the dumping of asbestos-laden wastes in residential neighborhoods as part of Connecticut's landmark 2008 environmental justice law." The report also commends the group for proposing alternative remediation plans to the EPA's.

Local Group Says They're Ignored

SaveStratford, which was formed in 2007, released a statement following the report's publication last week.

"We've presented scientifically proven technology that effectively eliminates asbestos and PCB's as well as neutralizes lead and other heavy metals to the EPA and CT State DEEP as a solution," the group said.

"Sadly, both USEPA Region 1 and the CT State DEEP have chosen to ignore these solutions and continue pushing their one and only substandard, underfunded proposal that: Does not clean up the Toxic Raymark Waste. Does not fix the problem. Does not help Stratford."

The report from the Toxic Actions center concludes: "Twenty-three years after the initial remediation began at Raymark, instead of a band-aid approach, the families, businesses and community of Stratford deserve a fully funded, comprehensive cleanup of the Toxic Raymark waste to protect public health, environment and quality of life."

Know what's going on December 04, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Maybe the "SaveStratford" group needs to get a message -- the information they provided ain'[t working!!!! And maybe our Town Council, our very helpful "Mayor" and his bevy of protectors as well as our $90,000 a year Economic Development Director (?) need to get on the ball and fix this embarrassment. No wonder no company wants to come to Stratford, with its asbestos contamination leaking all over the place. How much do we citizens have to scream and stomp and yell and pound our fists? MAYOR, TOWN COUNCIL, $90,000 A YEAR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR -- DO SOMETHING? DEVELOP A PLAN. STOP POISONING US, YOUR CITIZENS WHO YOU'VE BEEN ELECTED TO KEEP SAFE.
Mike Reynolds December 04, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Well, here's the problem. The town is powerless to do anything. Stratford neither has the funds or the resources or the expertise necessary to solve this problem. The town can suggest, plead, beg, assist, or doing anything except for solving this problem. Ultimately it is in the hands of the EPA to resolve this situation once and for all. Mayor Miron and his buddy Jason Santi wanted to consolidate a lot of the waste into the Raymark ballfield in a residential neighborhood. That's what got Save Stratford started. John Harkins helped Save Stratford scuttle those plans. Maybe if the EPA and state DEEP came up with a realistic comprehensive solution to rid Stratford of this waste once and for all then we wouldn't have to worry about it any more. The issue with Stratford is that some of the major problems we have are totally out of our control. Besides Raymark, we have no control over the sale and development of the Engine Plant, and we have little say in the airport.
Anne K. Mulligan December 04, 2012 at 01:53 PM
When was this written? Shaw's became ShopRite quite a couple of years ago.
Jason Bagley (Editor) December 04, 2012 at 02:41 PM
The report was written this year. I guess they missed that update. I'll make the change to the article now.
stick lee December 04, 2012 at 04:14 PM
As a kid playing behind what first was a electronics supply house near the corner off honeyspot and lordship blvd.i've seen buried asbestos, and was told to stay away...but never seen this area listed as a location. Wonder why? ????
Know what's going on December 04, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Nice try Reynolds. I don't hear Stratford screaming to the EPA of the DEEP. I don't hear Stratford screaming at Rosa DeLauro or Blumenthal, I don't hear them screaming at Dan Malloy. What I see is them hiding -- hiding as they've always done. Ain't it easy to put the responsibility on someone else. They should be protecting our community == and they should protect our community by doing everything, EVERYTHING, in their power to fix this problem. Ever hear it discussed at a Town Council meeting? Ever hear the Mayor come out of his den and talk to our community about what he's doing about it. Ever seen Karen Kaiser driving down to Washington and sittting on the doorstep of EPA. Isn't that their jobs?
Mike December 04, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Does anyone remember when Frash pond used to stink? Everything in it died. The town was going to spend millions of dollars to find out why. Then there was a fire at a factory building that had a big nasty stain from it's back door to the storm drain that connected to Frash pond. When that company was gone, Frash pond stoped stinking. The town knew about what they were dumping because I told them about it. Did the town do anything to stop it? Don't bet the rent. There is a lot that goes on that you will never hear about. Business as usual.
t kustra December 04, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Is there a list of the 46 residential properties that are considered to be contaminated or how to know if you are included??
Mike Reynolds December 04, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Where have you been the last 4 years? Have you attended any meetings? DeLauro is behind getting this resolved but the EPA and DEEP won't budge off their ridiculous plan and keep using no money as an excuse. By the way, just because YOU don't see anything being done doesn't mean nothing is being done. Also, why would this be discussed at a Town Council meeting? Nothing is going to be accomplished listening to all of the council members agreeing that the Raymark waste should be removed once and for all. This is way beyond local control.
Sassy5582 December 06, 2012 at 04:31 AM
I am a local health care provider and can tell you that there are significant clusters of residents with cancer in certain areas of Stratford, areas that are not included in the known "contaminated residential properties". I can only assume that contaminated soil was sold to developers of these neigborhoods during the 60's and 70's and residents have been living there for all these years and mutiple generations in these families are being affected by cancer and other chronic/terminal illnesses due to exposure and contamination. Sadly, this is just an informal observation, but it does not take a rocket scientist to see this trend. This is sickening.
Heather Smith January 19, 2014 at 01:11 PM
I grew up in Stratford, on Ryan Avenue. Our house was built in 1978. Frash Pond is right at the end of the street. Raymark dumped their waste in the playgrounds of our schools (namely Birdseye & Wooster). There were days when you would walk out the front door and all you could smell was that nasty odor coming from the factory. I feel like myself and all of the kids I grew up with are doomed to become ill from the exposure. This is an environmental nightmare.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something