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Long-Awaited Cleanup Under Way in Tiverton

 TIVERTON - Shortly after 8 on Monday morning, Gail Corvello got a knock on her door, one that has been seven years in coming.

Opposite Corvello's home at 190 Bay St., a huge backhoe was about to break ground on the cleanup of the largest and most complex soil contamination case in recent Rhode Island history.

Courtney D. Moore, senior engineer for EnviroLogic LLC of New Hampshire, walked across the street to get Corvello so she could document the first scoop.

"I said, 'Wait for me.' I gave everybody a hug," Corvello recalled.

Two hours later, Corvello was downloading the photos she had taken of the groundbreaking onto her laptop and showing them to neighbors who had gathered to reflect on their ordeal - which began seven years and three weeks ago when sewer workers on Bay Street brought up soil tinged a bright blue - a marker of cyanide.

For seven years, the property owners have been unable to sell or refinance their homes or to use their yards in any way, not even to plant a vegetable garden.

Four years ago, about 100 working-class residents of the Bay Street neighborhood sued corporate giant Southern Union in federal court, winning an $11.5-million settlement that was settled last week.

The agreement called for the residents - not the town or the state - to spend up to $3 million on the cleanup.

With four years of litigation finally over, Corvello and other plaintiffs say they feel free to express the emotions that have accompanied their ordeal, particularly in the last 15 months when the deal almost fell through more than once.

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