Milford Superfund cleanup delayed another year

MILFORD – A quarter of a century has passed since the federal Environmental Protection Agency added Milford’s Fletcher Paint Works to its list of contaminated properties.

After years of soil sampling, public hearings, proposals for remedies and target dates that have come and gone, the EPA announced in 2013 that the final cleanup of the Elm Street site – the excavation and off-site treatment and disposal of soils contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) – was expected to start in fall 2013.

That never happened and Town Administrator Guy Scaife told Selectmen recently the delay was caused by additional concentrations of pollution found at the Mill Street portion of the site, where Fletcher Paint had a storage facility.

Now the target is 2015.

The EPA “head-butted with General Electric” over the severity of the pollution and what it meant for the cleanup, Scaife said.

GE is considered a responsible party and is paying for much of the cleanup, because the company brought hundreds of drums of contaminated material to the site.

Good news is that this year there will be no construction activity that will affect recreation activities at the nearby Keyes Field, Scaife said.

But “it’s been frustrating,” he said, because the EPA hasn’t communicated well with the town.

Also there had been some talk about splitting the river cleanup portion of the work from the Elm Street portion, Scaife said.

“We don’t want it done in two stages. We will continue to push for one project,” he said, “but we don’t have a lot of influence.”

The EPA’s plans call for the excavation and off-site treatment or disposal of soils contaminated with PCBs that are at levels the EPA says present risks to human health from long-term exposure.

The PCBs were the result of Fletcher Paint Works’ manufacture of paints and stains for residential use at its Milford facility during the 1950s and through the 1970s.

Then in the early 1980s, water samples from the town’s Keyes Municipal Well showed volatile organic compounds, and the well was removed from service in 1984 and put on the National Priorities, Superfund List in 1989.

The Elm Street plans calls for 28,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil to be trucked from Milford to a landfill in New York state. Another 28,000 cubic yards of clean material, likely from a local source, according to the EPA’s 2008 plan, will be brought in to build a cap and restore the site.

Earlier stages of the cleanup occurred first in 1993 when the EPA disposed of 512 boxes and 99 drums of hazardous materials from buildings and then demolished and disposed of the Mill Street storage shed.

Then, in 1995, contaminated surface soil from several residential properties on Mill Street was excavated and disposed of off-site, and in 2001 when the EPA demolished and disposed of the Fletcher Paint building.
Documents that formed the basis for EPA’s selection of the cleanup remedy are available at Wadleigh Memorial Library.

Cleanup of Milford’s other Superfund site, at the Savage Municipal Water Supply Well, next to the old police station began around 1999.

Scaife told Selectmen on Feb. 24 that recent bedrock investigation showed contamination had gone down 600 feet and the EPA plans to present remedial options this year.

Drilling in 2010 showed contamination was down to 400 feet.

Savage Well was a water source for Milford from 1960 to 1983, when the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services detected concentrations of volatile organic compounds above drinking water standards, and the well was shut down. The site received Superfund emergency monies to temporarily provide bottled water to residents of a nearby trailer park whose water supply well was also affected. The trailer park was subsequently connected to the town’s public water supply, and the site was added to the National Priorities List in September 1984.

Two years ago, the Department of Environmental Services reported that it had sampled wells on North River Road for many years, and there was no evidence to show contamination had migrated to residential areas.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at kcleveland@cabinet.com or 673-3100, ext. 304.