March 30, 2009
A curious septuagenarian caller, known to the Reporter but shy about putting her name in the paper, called in this week to question the previous existence of a dry cleaner on Mildred Avenueâ€”where vapors from tetrachloroethylene, a.k.a: perc, were found inside a middle school last month.
â€œMy father used to work at Gentleâ€™s Bakery there,â€ she said. â€œThey used to deliver to stores and house-to-house. That was when they had a bakery delivery van, like the milk man.â€
Her father began working at the bakery just before the Great Depression she said, and worked his way up to sales manager by the time the business was sold to a larger outfit in the late 50s.
To the right of Gentleâ€™s, she recalled, was a business called Thompson Wire. And to the left, another she could not recall. But she didnâ€™t remember any dry cleaner in the area.
Could be she was right.
As it turns out, there are other uses for perc, including as a degreaser in the auto industry. More recently a business called Tech Carburetor Corp, occupied a site at 33-35 Mildred Ave., part of the lot that the present-day Mildred Avenue Middle School is now built on. The business is still listed at that address on some directory websites, though according to the Mass. Secretary of Stateâ€™s website, the company was dissolved by its owners in 1998.
Theoretically, perc could have been used there to clean auto parts, but only a Department of Environmental Protection investigator would be able to determine the true source of the perc, most of which was cleaned up before the school was built.
When scientists learned more details about how vapors from perc seep up from groundwater, the DEP changed its requirements for pre-construction perc cleanup in 2006. The vapors at the Mildred were detected as the department reviewed some 600 sites known to have high levels of perc. Steps are being taken to stop the vapors, which are still at levels that are safe for students and teachers, according to the DEP and the school department. A second test is expected sometime this month.