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Waste Site Cleanup & Reuse in New England

Former Contoocook Valley Paper Company - Henniker, NH
(April 2006)

Program: State Assessment
Grantee: New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (contacts)
Summary: The formerly-contaminated grist mill and Contoocook Valley Paper Company mill site is reclaimed as community openspace, and boat launch, along the Contoocook River.

Click to enlarge photo: Former Contoocook Valley Paper Company Site

The former Contoocook Valley Paper Company site had a long history of industrial use. Originally operated as a grist mill in the 1750's, the historic site was occupied by the paper company for 124 years up to 1987. After the close of the paper mill, the site remained in contaminated ruin with solid waste, machinery, containers of chemicals, and buried paper sludge. A portion of the Contoocook River had also been contaminated by the disposal of paper sludge.

The site was initially investigated by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) in 1990. This resulted in the $400,000 emergency removal of above-ground petroleum storage tanks from the site between 1992 and 1993 by the EPA. In 2000 and 2002, DES and the Town of Henniker assessed and cleanup up the site with $87,000 from an EPA Multi-site Cooperative Agreement. The assessment confirmed the presence of about 2,000 cubic yards of buried paper sludge that was contaminated with cadmium, chromium, barium and lead. Approximately 1,500 tons of solid waste and paper sludge were removed in the summer and fall of 2003. A final cover of wildflower mix was seeded during the spring of 2004

Click to enlarge photo: Site along the Contoocook River

The mill site and surrounding area are eligible for listing as a National Historic District on the National Registry of Historic Places. The site's eligibility for this designation recognizes its historical significance. The town of Henniker wants to maintain the mill's remaining dry coarse-laid granite foundation walls and sluiceway, circa 1750's. The town is considering using the foundation and sluiceway for educational purposes, in combination with walking trails and interpretive displays focused on the Historic West Henniker Village District.

The site now provides recreational and educational opportunities for town residents, following the successful cleanup.  This portion of the Contoocook River is very popular with white water enthusiasts and fishers, and cleaning up the site is a great example of multiple resources for the public good.


  • 1750's:  Grist Mill on the site.

  • 1863:  Start of Paper Company mill use.

  • 1987:  End of Paper Company mill use.

  • 1990:  The site was initially investigated by NH DES.

  • 1992-1993:  EPA emergency removal of AST's.

  • 2000-2002:  NH DES and Town assessment & cleanup of site, using EPA funds.

  • 2003:  Solid waste & paper sludge removed from site.

  • 2004:  Wildflower mix was seeded.

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