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After Years Of Study, EPA Releases Cleanup Proposal For Berlin, N.H. Superfund Site

Google Maps / screenshot

The Environmental Protection Agency is out with a plan to clean up a hazardous waste site in downtown Berlin.

The Chlor-Alkali Superfund site sits on the east bank of Androscoggin River, next to the city’s Sawmill Dam.

From the late 1800s until the 1960s, the property housed a factory that supplied paper mills with chemicals, including chloroform, lye and bleach.

Some toxic waste from the factory sits in a capped landfill on the site, where demolition debris from the facility was deposited as recently as 1999, according to the EPA.

The site became a Superfund in 2005. It’s one of nearly two dozen such sites in New Hampshire.

The EPA says the Chlor-Alkali landfill, as well as nearby soil and groundwater, is contaminated with unsafe levels of carcinogens and other toxins. The area is zoned for industrial and commercial use, but without cleanup, the EPA says the site will not be safe for people to enter.

The final cleanup proposal released this week is the result of more than a decade of study and would cost about $5 million.

The EPA wants to excavate contaminated soils and dispose of them in the on-site landfill, or take them off-site. They'd also make repairs to that landfill.

They propose monitoring contaminated groundwater and cleaning it up if it moves too far outside the site. And they would remove mercury and toxic debris, left by the former factory, from the adjacent riverbed. 

The agency will hold an information session and public hearing on the plan via phone and Skype next Wednesday at 7 p.m. Public comment is open until early July.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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