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EPA Issues Cleanup Recommendation For Nashua's Mohawk Tannery Site


The Environmental Protection Agency wants public input on its recommendation for cleaning up a toxic waste site in Nashua.

The Mohawk Tannery is a proposed Superfund site in a residential area along the Nashua River. It produced tanned leather from the 1920s to the 1980s, leaving acidic sludge, dioxanes and arsenic in the ground.

The site was named to former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s priority sites list – not the same as the national Superfund priorities list – last year.

Pruitt resigned last week, but EPA New England administrator Alexandra Dunn says his successor, acting administrator Andrew Wheeler, will continue work on the priorities list.

Dunn says the Mohawk Tannery is on that list in part because a local developer wants to buy the site for industrial and residential reuse.

“The opportunity for positive redevelopment can come and go very quickly,” she says.

Dunn referred questions about that redevelopment plan to the city of Nashua, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The EPA’s cleanup recommendation for the tannery involves concentrating and sealing off the toxic waste in one area of the site.

The agency says that plan would cost between $8 million and $14.2 million, shared between the developer and the EPA, since the company that operated the tannery no longer exists.

More expensive options would be to treat the waste on-site – at a cost of $18.7 million – or truck it off-site, at a cost of $32.6 million.

Dunn says they think sealing off the hazards is the most protective and cost-effective plan.

“We are talking about removing large volumes of waste,” Dunn says. “So in this case, the consolidation and encapsulation with an impermeable cap will really provide a win-win for this community and be very non-disruptive to the neighbors.”

The waste would be covered with a cap and liner around its sides down to bedrock, but the EPA is not proposing installing a liner beneath the waste.

The agency will hold a public meeting about the plan on July 25 at 6:30 p.m. at Nashua City Hall. Public comment on the clean-up is open through Aug. 8.

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