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Ashland - Local Town Pages

MBTA Road Renamed for Ashland Lives Lost

Sep 29, 2020 10:51AM ● By Cynthia Whitty

The MBTA access road off Rt. 135 in Ashland was renamed, in a small dedication ceremony, on Aug. 22, for those who lost their lives to rare cancers in connection with the Nyanza superfund site.


“This has been something that we planned on doing for a while; however, we only recently received the rights to the road,” Cara Tirrell, Ashland Citizens Action Committee member, said. “While attendance was limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, I am so happy that Bernie and Marie Kane were able to attend.” Their son Kevin died in 1998 of an aggressive cancer related to Nyanza.

In a communication to the public, Michael Herbert, town manager, said, “The premature deaths of young men like Kevin Kane and David Keddy provided conclusive connections to Nyanza, and presumably many more became sick or died after being directly exposed to their chemicals. Through their pain and suffering, the increased intensity of monitoring and clean-up activities (state-wide) help to limit and hopefully eliminate the introduction of poisons into our environment.”

Herbert said, “There are those that do not agree with the path we chose here, and feel like highlighting Nyanza will hurt Ashland’s reputation, especially after those chemicals have been cleaned or contained. However, Nyanza is always going to be a part of our history that we cannot escape from. I see the environmental and human impacts of Nyanza as the middle chapters in its story. Hopefully, the final chapters will be about how we became a stronger, more sustainable, and healthier community because of it.”

Nyanza Chemical, one of the largest in the U.S., operated from 1917 to 1978 manufacturing textile dyes and dye raw materials on the land located at the end of Megunko Road. Liquid wastes were discharged from the Nyanza site into the environment in several ways: an underground vault, unlined lagoons, and nearby brooks and wetlands. More than 100 different chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs), dye manufacturing compounds, and metals, were detected on the approximately 35-acre site. Superfund Legislation was enacted in 1980 and the Nyanza Chemical Waste Dump was added to the National Priorities List in 1983. Local children played in the area and later lost their lives to rare forms of cancer related to the site. (

As a place for remembrance, peace, and learning, an Ashland Memorial Healing Garden was built behind the middle school in June 2016. The garden can be accessed by a path that runs from the MBTA access road along the outfield fence.


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