Dowbrigade Living on Radioactive Waste

Several large properties in the East End of Watertown, including a nearly 12-acre swath of land at Greenough Boulevard and Arsenal Street that was once used to burn depleted uranium from a Watertown Arsenal nuclear reactor, are undergoing close scrutiny to determine how badly contaminated they are and who is responsible for cleaning them up.

The status of the former uranium disposal site is in limbo, as state and federal agencies haggle over who should make the land safe for public use.

from the Boston Globe

Are you kidding us?!!? That 12-acre swath of land at Greenough Boulevard and Arsenal Street is FOUR BLOCKS from the Dowbrigade’s Fortress of Solitude and Rest Home, from whence we pen this post.

And now, after three years we discover that we are living atop a nuclear waste dump! And that the area in which we live is undergoing “close scrutiny” to see how badly contaminated it is! And we thought the reason the walls glow at night is that the previous tenants had used that luminescent “Glowz” paint.

The Watertown Arsenal is a huge red-brick conglomeration stretching almost a half mile along Arsenal St. in Watertown, which abuts Cambridge on the east and the Charles River on the south. Part of the wave of urban arsenal construction during the buildup to WWII, it is being converted piecemeal into retail and high-tech rental space.

We had always envisioned that era as a patriotic jamboree of American industrial stockpiling, with endless rows of jeeps and lorries, neatly packed and stacked gas masks and maybe an occasional Sherman tank or amphibious half-track waiting for the call which eventually came and went. This is the first we have heard about the existence of a WATERTOWN ARSENAL NUCLEAR REACTOR!

We have long been aware that the neighboring People’s Republic of Cambridge was a nuclear power. The research reactor at MIT, a squat white dome tucked behind Central Square on the MIT campus was both a scary reminder of the isotopes among us and a noteworthy driveby on the tourist’s tour of Cambridge, between the excretionary Stata Center and the corner in Cambridgeport where the Toasted Toga Taco House once stood. The joke, back in the day, was that if the Northeast power grid ever went down, at least Cambridge would have lights.

But who suspected that a stone’s throw away, stuffed under the radar by the nefarious military industrial complex, was a working military reactor producing weapons-grade plutonium waste.

Or that this highly radioactive waste was being BURNED IN AN INCINERATOR, with the ensuing smoke and ash left unfiltered to drift down on the neighborhood and contaminate people, pets and the places they live.

We thought the operant debate was whether to bury our radioactive waste for 20,000 years under Yucca Mountain near Bumfuck, Nevada, or find some obscure third-world cesspool desperate enough for US protection or pandering to take it off our hands. Or somehow shoot it into the sun (our personal favorite). Little did we know that another alternative existed – just throw it in an incinerator a few blocks from Dowbrigade headquarters!

Taken on top of the developing story that our august employer is in the process of constructing a Biosafety Level-4 lab, where scientists will fool around with microscopic killers such as Ebola, plague, and anthrax right across the street from the Boston Medical Center, which just happens to contain our dentist’s office, we are feeling less and less secure these days.

Now, we are trying not to panic with the implications of this news. We are desperately looking for a lighter side of this situation. So far, the best we can come up with is this:

Since our governor seems so determined to bring legal gambling to Massachusetts, perhaps the state will give us odds as to the relative likelihood of succumbing to radiation poisoning as opposed to some mutant strain of the plague.

All kidding aside, folks, is anyone else concerned about the recently revealed Watertown Nuclear Reactor, and the radioactive waste in our gardens and yards? Or are we being needlessly paranoid again?

Frankly, we love living in Watertown. It is quiet, family oriented, and a mere 20 minutes from our office by car or bicycle. Our neighbors are all Armenians, which is fine as long as we don’t bring home any Turkish taffy. Our garden is thriving. In fact, we have a fat, juicy tomato on our nightstand right now, serving as a nightlight.

About dowbrigade

Semi-retired academic from Harvard, Boston University, Fulbright Commission, Universidad Laica Eloy Alfaro de Manta, currently columnist for El Diario de Portoviejo and La Marea de Manta.
This entry was posted in Friends and Family, Prose Screeds, Serious News. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Dowbrigade Living on Radioactive Waste

  1. Cathy Garger says:

    I was so very sad to read about lovely Watertown and the fact that it is permanently radioactively contaminated with so-called “Depleted” Uranium, (and depleted of radiation it most certainly is *not*!) a toxic and radioactive poison with a half-life of 4.5 billion years.

    But know that you are in good company. I have been living near Aberdeen Proving Grounds, which has been using radioactive material such as DU outside for well over 40 years – yes, DU is used right out in the open air, and Yes, this is the same Aberdeen that sits atop the beloved Chesapeake Bay and is maybe only about 10 miles from Baltimore!

    I have written something you might like to read:
    or shortened URL:

    Won’t you please join us in publicizing – and stopping – this radioactive poisoning of America?

    Cathy Garger

  2. MarkB says:

    You are being needlessly paranoid, and no doubt you find great pleasure in it. How many people have died in a nuclear power plant accident in this country? You are in more danger every time you step in your bathtub than you will be if you ate dirt from the Arsenel every day for the rest of your life.

  3. dowbrigade says:

    Hmmmm. Taking a bath or eating dirt? Let me think for a minute…..

  4. Anonymous says:

    where have you been, I knew about it when I was a kid. the manhattan project started there.

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