Devens Enterprise Zone is a roughly 4,000 acre plot of land in the towns Ayer, Shirley, Lancaster, and Harvard, Massachusetts that was once a former U.S. Army base by the name of Fort Devens. Devens was declared a Superfund site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1989 due to lead and arsenic contamination. It was then closed to the public by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 1991 for mainly economic and pragmatic reasons. Since the early 1990s, the Army and the EPA worked together to remediate the chemical contamination, and were successful overall. Throughout the 2000s, the redevelopment of Devens was the new focus for the site. Devens now contains hotels, residential living, recreational areas, conference centers, and is a center for many businesses.
Although Devens is doing well and redevelopment is ongoing, a new type of pollutant was found at the site in 2016. Several different chemicals belonging to the PFAS chemical group were detected in soil, sediment, and water samples, as well as in the municipal water supply of Devens and the town of Ayer, Massachusetts. Since the discovery of these “forever chemicals,” the state of Massachusetts and the community surrounding Devens has put time and effort into finding the solutions that best fit the community, and keep everyone safe.
Devens is a great case study to learn more about how our technological developments can lead to harmful environmental and human health effects many years down the road. While some effective systems are in place, like the Superfund Program, there are so many developing pollution effects that exist that we must be open to learning about and preparing for. Redevelopment of former military bases is a complex, challenging issue that must allow the site to change as the world is changing. Environmental contamination is a dynamic and unstable issue; sites like Devens must be adaptable in their redevelopment process in order to be successful.