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Waste Site Cleanup & Reuse in New England

Eastern Surplus Company

Meddybemps, Maine

Archaeological Investigation
Archaeological Dig
workers comb the earth for artifacts

A unique story is taking place in Maine, where an EPA cleanup has encountered ancient American Indian artifacts thousands of years old. When EPA New England's Superfund program began work at the Eastern Surplus Company Superfund Site in Meddybemps, Maine in 1999, we expected to excavate soil, rocks, and a variety of hazardous materials. What we discovered was a trove of American Indian artifacts and an archaeological site thousands of years old. Eight thousand years of soil and 50 years of contamination cover the ancient Indian village in the heartland of Passamaquoddy country. EPA's goal of restoring the environment at this former Army surplus site is now coupled with the critical goal of preserving the historical and cultural integrity of this tribal property. The parcel sits on the shores of what was once a hub for a popular canoe travel route connecting coastal areas to the Saint Croix River and other interior regions. "This is an important site because it is opening up a new book in our history that had been taken away," said Donald Soctomah, Passamaquoddy legislative representative. "The last people to have touched the newly discovered artifacts are members of the Passamaquoddy who lived here 8,000 years ago and the first people to hold the excavated treasures are the Passamaquoddy who live here now."

The five-acre site, named Ntolonapemk (meaning "My Relatives' Place") by Passamaquoddy tribal elders, has been transformed from a polluted eyesore to a monument to the past. Hundreds of stone tools, drills, pottery shards and scrapers typical of early eastern woodland tribes are being collected by archaeologists from the University of Maine in Farmington, while the Abbe Museum in Bar harbor is acting as custodian for the artifacts.

Cooperation in preserving this landmark and its culture is a testimony to a relationship that can be achieved among Indian groups, federal, and state agencies working together. "Meddybemps is a symbol of new healing, of people and governments working together to save what is important to all of us," Soctomah said.

EPA Contact: Ed Hathaway (hathaway.ed@epa.gov)
Cleanup in progress
Other Links: National Priorities List Site Fact Sheet


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