This project began with a simple question: what happened at the Nyanza Superfund Site in the center of Ashland? I started by looking around town and found no visible marker, no trace of impact; all I found was an absence that belied the very real presence this contaminated site held over the town and that now, literally, resides underneath it. The Nyanza Superfund Site is named after the colorant plant company that operated continuously on Megunko Road from 1917 until it closed in 1978. By using the existing topography, adjacency to the Sudbury River, and the high ground of Megunko Hill, the industrial operation of Nyanza kept growing and was an economic provider that later became a source of toxic exposure.
From the moment I began this inquiry five years ago, I have met with many people, had lots of conversations, and also recorded video testimonials of their stories. What has emerged is a rich history of activism from a variety of people in Ashland, and that narrative is a source of pride. Unlike many concerned communities, Ashland had the right mix of fight and commitment to ensure representation for this site and the impact that it had for the people of the town.
The exhibition here consists of a variety of materials gathered to show you a multifaceted view of Ashland and Nyanza. Inside the adjacent “Quiet Room” you will find the EPA’s Field Repository of their remediation work on the Nyanza site, along with the video testimonials. This repository in the Ashland Public Library is the first instance in the EPA’s Superfund Program and is the direct result of our activism. Since the inception of the Ashland repository here in the late 1980’s, the EPA has instituted a Field Repository as a knowledge-sharing device at the local public libraries of all Superfund sites.
To the new people residing in Ashland, those of us from the era of contamination have not forgotten the hard lessons learned and we carry the memory of our loved ones as we live forward. We love this town: this Clock town, this Color town, and this activism town. As you walk through the exhibition, I invite you to contemplate Ashland’s history as an emblematic story of the industrialization of the American landscape. Please leave your trace, your mark, and your message on the history of our town, your color memory of Nyanza, and what kind of future you’d like for Ashland.
Dan Borelli, 2015