Dartmouth College announced plans on Monday to compensate local homeowners in an area where the school used to dump lab waste after residents filed complaints that carcinogens had leaked into the surrounding groundwater.
Dartmouth launched the Rennie Farm Value Assurance Program, which will offer "payment to property owners and possibly purchase some properties," according to Dartmouth News.
The controversy over the area began when Dartmouth's attempts to sell Rennie Farm in 2010 were cut short by the discovery that the state of the property was worse than expected. Researchers in the 1960s and 1970s had used the site to dump materials left over from experiments, and the school found syringes, glassware and broken containers of "noxious-smelling fluid," in addition to "thousands" of rodent carcasses and even human remains.
“The program is an effort on the college’s behalf to address neighborhood concerns about the value of their property,” Ellen Arnold, the director of real estate and one of the lawyers from the college, told the Associated Press. “It is an effort to bring some certainty to the market, some stability to the market while the treatment gets going … It’s completely an effort to be a good neighbor.”
The school also found levels of 1,4-dioxane, a "likely carcinogen that can also cause liver and kidney failure," in the soil at Rennie Farm. Levels of 1,4-dioxane exceeding state standards were found in the nearby well of the Higgins family. Dartmouth has provided the family with bottled water for cooking and drinking and installed water treatment systems to clean contaminated groundwater.
While a survey of 110 other local drinking wells did not turn up any further contamination, Dartmouth has offered 20 other families bottled water.
Local resident Peter Spiegel told the AP that while it it was "nice that Dartmouth has stepped up to the plate and done part of what they should do," the program did not go far enough. “It only goes partway because it doesn’t recognize the secondary effect of the [contamination], the harm that it has done to property values in a greater area than just around Rennie Farm,” Spiegel said.
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