Charles Ryan, a former reporter for the Daily Times
Chronicle, broke the most important early stories in the Woburn
toxic-waste tragedy: the discovery of contaminants in East Woburn's
drinking water in May 1979, and the revelation that the city's leukemia
rate was higher than should be expected for a community of its size.
Now, for the first time, Ryan has gathered the most significant of his
stories and put them on the Web. Lots of other links, too.
In 1996, the Massachusetts Bureau of Environmental Assessment -- part
of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health -- reported a strong
correlation between Woburn's childhood leukemia cases and water from
the city's two contaminated wells.
Beyond A Civil Action
"Woburn Issues & Answers." W.R. Grace & Company's
site, devoted to refuting the book and the movie. Makes rather
promiscuous use of my 1993 statement that Grace has become a "model
corporate citizen." See my response.
Woburn Toxic Trial
The curriculum of a mock-trial course at Ohio State
From 1979 to 1989 I worked as a staff reporter and editor for
the Daily Times Chronicle, of Woburn, Massachusetts. During
this time I covered the Woburn toxic-waste lawsuit, a landmark federal
case brought by eight families who accused industries of contaminating
their water, causing illness and death. I have also written about the
case for the Boston Phoenix.
Below are some of my more significant Woburn-related articles.
This page was last updated on June 14,
A lengthy monograph on the trial and why it ended so
unsatisfactorily for the plaintiffs. Written in 1989, updated for the
Web in 1996.
An article I wrote for the Winter 1989-'90 issue of MetroNorth
Magazine on a project by MIT scientists to link chemical exposure
to genetic mutations.
The unpleasant truth about cleaning up hazardous waste. From
the Boston Phoenix of 12/24/93.
Jonathan Harr talks about A Civil Action, his
heartbreaking legal thriller about the case. From the Boston Phoenix
Arrogance cost Jan Schlichtmann the victory he sought in the
Woburn toxic-waste trial 11 years ago. But never mind. Now Hollywood's A
Civil Action is turning him into a winner. From the Boston
Phoenix of 01/02/98.
Hollywood is set to release its version of how toxic dumping
devastated Woburn. Dan Kennedy, who's covered the story for 15 years,
looks beyond the hype. Boston Phoenix cover story of 12/18/98.
W.R. Grace has launched a public-relations offensive that
makes heavy use of my 1993 reference to the company as "one of Woburn's
model corporate citizens." See why I no longer think Grace is acting
like a "model corporate citizen." Letter to the Boston Globe of
John J. Riley, the former owner of the Woburn tannery that was
at issue in the toxic-waste case, has filed a libel suit against
Jonathan Harr, author of A Civil Action, and against his
publishers. From the Boston Phoenix of 01/08/99.
The venerable magazine published an article in its 02/08/99
issue arguing that it is virtually impossible to trace cancer clusters
to environmental contamination. Yet the article failed even to mention
a landmark study by the Massachusetts Department of
Public Health. From the Boston Phoenix of 02/12/99.
The film version of A Civil Action promotes a
fictional image of an unresponsive government bureaucracy. That's not
what happened in Woburn -- but the truth is dispiriting nevertheless.
From The New Republic of 03/15/99.
Erin Brockovich and Jan Schlichtmann are battling over Salem's
toxic power plant. More intriguing, though, is Schlichtmann's battle
with himself. From the Boston Phoenix of 05/12/00.