Remember Bay Street? That part of Tiverton where people were prisoners in homes they couldn’t sell because their yards were laced with poison?
Those people are mostly still there. There’s still arsenic, cyanide and lead in the soil. They are still stuck.
And that letter they just got from the state Department of Environmental Management wasn’t word of rescue. It was an order that they replace their outdated cesspools and septic systems or face big fines.
They must wonder whether to laugh or cry.
Here comes the state, the same state that has sat by for going on two decades while these people live out their lives trapped by toxins, suddenly alarmed that toilet waste might taint the soil and water.
You’d think those officials would have been embarrassed to send such a letter.
This is a neighborhood whose soil is so bad in places that people can’t plant vegetable gardens. Grandparents fear to have grandchildren over to play in the yard. A day care had to cover its outside play space with rubber mats.
Cleanups started from time to time, some with fanfare attended by governor, lawmakers and the press. But these sputtered as costs climbed. Lately, the approach has been to look away and pretend this place doesn’t exist.
Yet now, these same authorities are alarmed that waste from this neighborhood might pollute the water, might be bad for boating and fishing.
That, apparently, is where authorities draw the line.