Enviro officials take steps toward Superfund cleanups

Federal and state environmental officials have taken steps toward making further cleanup of two of the state’s most notorious Superfund toxic waste sites a reality.

The first step resulted in the announcement last month of an agreement by the Chester Realty Trust and Warren Kean, owners of the Mohawk Tannery site in Nashua, to contribute at least $493,000 toward the estimated $16 million cleanup of the contaminated Nashua property.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it and the state Department of Environmental Services reached the settlement with Kean and the trust. The public has until July 24 to comment before the EPA decides to finalize the agreement, EPA Spokesman David Deegan said

“Obviously, our desire is to move forward and get it under way,” Deegan said.

While pleased that a cleanup now seems more likely, two city officials cautioned that they first want to see if the agreement will allow for repayment of overdue taxes. An exact figure was not immediately available, but the officials said the property has a tax lien of several hundred-thousand dollars.

“Overall, we are very pleased to see that the EPA and the property owner are making terms on these issues,” said Jay Minkarah, director of the city Office of Economic Development, told The Telegraph. “But we are in a public comment period. We need to look very carefully to make sure the city’s interests are protected.”

Mohawk Tannery produced tanned hides for leather from 1924 to 1984. For years the company discharged hazardous substances into the Nashua River and dumped sludge into several unlined disposal areas at the site. Two of the largest disposal areas sit right next to the river, according to the EPA.

About 66,000 cubic yards of contaminated sludge remain in lagoons, DES has said. The sludge contains dioxins, arsenic and other contaminants.

Meanwhile, the EPA said it is ordering 30 potentially responsible parties to begin cleaning up the Beede Waste Oil Superfund site in Plaistow – a cleanup that an EPA official said is due after waiting a “sufficient time” for the parties to come up with a cleanup plan.

The agency said the order was issued because efforts to engage the parties in negotiations over cleanup have been unsuccessful.

“Seeing this barren waste oil site cleaned up, and restoring an important drinking water aquifer for area residents, is critical,” said Ira Leighton, deputy regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “We have given these potentially responsible parties sufficient time to tell us how they propose to carry through the cleanup plan for the site, and after months of waiting for a proposal it is apparent that the time has come to switch gears and compel the parties, through the use of our enforcement tools, to carry out the cleanup.”

The 10 largest so-called PRPs are ExxonMobil Corp., Brodie Mountain Ski Area, the U.S. Navy, Cumberland Farms, Ryder Truck Rental, Vernon Plastics Corp., Waste Management, the Massachusetts State Police and Fluor Power Systems. The Beede site was added to the Superfund National Priorities list in 1996.

The cleanup plan’s cost is estimated at $48 million. All told, the EPA and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services have spent some $24 million on cleanup planning and remediation.

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