Milford Superfund cleanup set to begin this year

MILFORD – Target dates for the final cleanup work on the Fletcher Superfund Site have come and gone over the past several years, but this year it looks as if some preliminary work will get done.

The General Electric Company put the project out to bid last month, Town Administrator Mark Bender said, and some work on Mill Street and some site preparation for work at the entrance to Keyes Park could be done this year.

GE is paying for much of the cleanup because it is considered responsible for much of the contamination with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other hazardous waste.

The town is “guardedly optimistic,” said Town Administrator Mark Bender.

“Guardedly” because the project was added to the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s list of hazardous waste properties, called the National Priorities List, in 1988. Since then there were years of soil sampling and public hearings and target dates for the final cleanup have been pushed back several times.

Most of the Fletcher Paint Superfund Site is on Elm Street at the entrance to Keyes Park, where in 2001 the EPA demolished and disposed of the Fletcher Paint Company building.

The site also includes land along the river and on Mill Street, where Fletcher had a storage facility and where there was an earlier clean up in the mid-1990s.

According to plans finalized in 2008, the EPA will have 28,000 cubic yards of soil trucked from Milford to a landfill in New York state, and another 28,000 cubic yards of clean material brought in to build a cap for the site. Originally, the EPA was going to treat the soil on-site, but in 2008 the agency said excavation and disposal at an off-site landfill would be more economical.

A previous target date of 2013 was apparently scratched because of conflicts between the EPA and General Electric, after additional pollution was found at the Mill Street site.

Fletcher Paint Works manufactured and sold paints and stains for residential use at its Milford plant from 1949 until 1991. Hundreds of drums of waste liquid PCBs and other toxic materials contaminated groundwater on the Mill Street property in the late 1960s through early 1980s.

According to the EPA’s New England waste site cleanup web page, the state inspected the facility in 1982 in response to a complaint and found more than 800 drums of alkyd resins and 21 drums of solvent.

The EPA removed 864 drums of paint resins and drying agents, as well as PCB/organic wastes in 1989 and contaminated soil was covered with a synthetic liner and gravel to prevent migration off-site at both the Mill Street and Elm Street locations.

By the end of 1991, a fence had been built around the Elm Street property. The storage shed and its contents were disposed of during the summer of 1993, due to their deteriorating conditions.

In 1995, contaminated surface soils were removed from three residential properties adjacent to the Mill Street site. Asphalt was also placed over Mill Street to direct future run-off away from these residential properties.

The groundwater contamination at the site is currently monitored for three toxic compounds and air samples taken from basements in 2009 and 2010 suggest that indoor air does not exceed recommended limits for toxic pollutants, according to the EPA.

Sediment samples taken from the Souhegan River and downstream near the Goldman Dam, near the Stone Bridge, however, found PCBs in the sediment and concluded that the risks to human health are mainly from eating fish and from swimming near the site.

Bank soil sampling on the Boys and Girls Club side of the river did not show any PCB contamination after the 2007 flood, according to the EPA.

In 2012 the EPA decided the water under the Fletcher site is sufficiently clean of the PCBs and any remaining contamination is from a gasoline leak or naturally occurring materials.

The potential threat to ground water is high due to the highly permeable nature of the shallow sand and gravel aquifer that supplies drinking water to area residents, according to the EPA. An estimated 11,400 people obtain drinking water from public and private wells within three miles of the site.

There are signs along the banks of the river advising against swimming or wading in the area adjacent to the site. PCB contamination was found in fish sampled in mid-1990s and the state advises skinning and cooking fish caught there.

Milford has one other Superfund site, Savage Well, also known as the OK Tool site, adjacent to the old police station near the intersection of Routes 101 and 101A

The Savage Well was a municipal water source until it was closed in 1983 and added to the National Priorities List. Remedial work began in 1999 and construction was completed in 2006 and remediation will continue for many years.

Except for a nearby mobile home park, which received bottled water from the federal government until it was connected to the town’s public water supply, there is no apparent contamination of water in Milford residential areas from the Savage Well contamination.

New Hampshire has 21 Superfund sites in all, with construction completed on 16 of them. There are 700 sites in the six New England states.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or