Waste disposal activities at the Sutton Brook Disposal Area can be traced back to at least 1957, when an area of the site was used as a "burning dump." This area was originally designated by the Tewksbury Board of Health as a temporary disposal area (landfill). In 1961, the temporary assignment was modified to require that the landfill on the site be operated as a sanitary landfill, accepting municipal refuse generated only in the Town of Tewksbury, Massachusetts. The assignment was not complied with, as the landfill accepted municipal, commercial, and industrial wastes from both inside and outside the Town of Tewksbury. The owners of the landfill received numerous violation citations from state and local officials for violating Massachusetts Sanitary Landfill Regulations.
In 1966, the Town of Tewksbury was ordered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (the Commonwealth) Commissioner of Public Health to operate the landfill using the sanitary landfill method. However, after 1966, there were documented occurrences of landfill burning, uncovered waste areas, the filling in of on-site wetlands, wastes disposed below the water table, and landfill slopes which exceeded operation plans. Due to these violations, the Commonwealth ordered the closure of the landfill in 1979. At the time of its closure in 1979, the landfill was accepting in excess of 250 tons of waste per day. Despite the closure order, landfill operations continued until 1982, when official landfill operations were suspended, but waste acceptance continued through 1988.
Numerous investigations of the site by local, state, and federal organizations have revealed the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs), pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and inorganic elements in on-site and off-site ground water, surface water, sediment, soil, and VOCs and SVOCs in air samples.