CHELSEA, MASS. (WHDH) - A paint chip problem in Chelsea has recently raised concerns as environmental activists say pieces of paint falling from the Tobin Bridge contain lead.
Now, stakeholders are calling on state leaders to step in and take action.
“They’re all over the place,” one neighbor said of the paint chips.
A walk below the bridge quickly reveals paint chips from above all over the ground, blanketing about a half mile of Chelsea.
“It’s not only on the sidewalks and up against fence lines,” said Roseann Bongiovanni of GreenRoots, an environmental group. “It’s on people’s steps. It’s in their soil. It’s on their welcome mats on their doors — on their driveways.”
Two weeks ago, a resident concerned the paint chips may contain lead pointed the problem out to GreenRoots. The group contacted the city and an environmental consultant was hired to collect and test samples.
“[W]hen I saw the results, I just couldn’t believe my eyes,” Bongiovanni, who serves as GreenRoots’ executive director, said. “It’s off the charts bad.”
The lab results did, in fact, find lead in levels that city leaders said are extremely high.
“Lead is linked to reproductive, neurological as well as physical health impacts that are irreversible and could be ruinous to the day-to-day lives or our residents and especially our children,” Chelsea Housing and Development Director Alex Train said.
It is clear that plenty of children live alongside the bridge.
There are children’s bikes stored steps away from paint flakes.
A daycare has strollers parked nearly on top of the chips.
A photo provided by GreenRoots, meanwhile, shows paint pieces on a backyard trampoline.
“The particles could be flying into our windows when we open them up,” concerned Chelsea resident Celeste Williams said.
“I cry,” Williams told 7NEWS. “I was just crying a minute ago.”
Massachusetts’ Secretary of Transportation was alerted to the findings and recently came with a team of engineers and contractors to see the paint chips themselves.
“We want to really let the community know that they were heard,” Secretary of Transportation Gina Fiandaca said. “So, the first step will be to do a full assessment of really what needs to be done and then to put a contract out, expedite that so that we can start the work immediately.”
A two page letter lays out steps officials plan to take.
Still, many are concerned about the damage already done.
“Honestly, the state needs to provide mitigation for all these homes and families that have been impacted for so long,” Bongiovanni said.
The fix for paint chip problems around the Tobin Bridge won’t be quick. In the meantime, officials from the state Department of Transportation said they plan to do outreach to people living in the neighborhood, talking to them and keeping them updated on their progress.
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