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EPA Announces a Proposed Plan to Clean up the Chlor-Alkali Facility Superfund Site in Berlin, N.H.

06/04/2020
Contact Information: 
John Senn (senn.john@epa.gov)
(617) 918-1019

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today the availability of a proposed plan to clean up the Chlor-Alkali Facility Superfund Site located adjacent to Sawmill Dam in Berlin, New Hampshire. The proposed plan's purpose is to inform the public of the alternatives considered and solicit comment on EPA's preferred remedy.

On June 10, 2020 at 7:00 p.m., EPA will hold an informational public meeting and a formal public hearing. In the interest of public safety, the meeting and hearing will be conducted virtually via Skype and telephone.

The Chlor-Alkali Facility Superfund site proposed plan and information on how to participate in this meeting is available on EPA's website at www.epa.gov/superfund/chloralkali.

Highlights of the EPA proposed cleanup plan include:

  • Maintenance and monitoring of an existing construction debris landfill that contains hazardous materials.
  • Removal of contaminated soils that pose a risk to human health and either on-site disposal at the existing landfill or off-site disposal at a licensed facility.
  • Removal of mercury and mercury-contaminated materials in the Androscoggin River.
  • On site treatment of contaminated groundwater in bedrock beneath the site.
  • Restrictions on residential and other unrestricted use activities on the site, including use of groundwater.
  • Monitoring of groundwater and five-year reviews of that information.

EPA's proposed remedy, including long term monitoring of the site after the cleanup has been completed, has an estimated total cost of $5 million. The proposed remedy is expected to prevent the ingestion of contaminated groundwater, prevent contact with contaminated soils and landfilled materials, and reduce the potential for exposure to elemental and amalgam mercury that appears in the river.

In selecting a final cleanup plan, EPA must consider the effectiveness of the remedy at reducing contamination to ensure protectiveness of human health and the environment, cost, implementability, and state, municipal, and community acceptance. EPA encourages public input on the proposed plan for the Chlor-Alkali Facility Superfund Site and will provide opportunities during the virtual public hearing and during the 30-day comment period.

Additionally, EPA will accept public comments during the 30-day public comment period from June 3 to July 3, 2020.

Copies of the EPA's proposed plan may be viewed on the Chlor-Alkali Facility Superfund Site web page at: www.epa.gov/superfund/chloralkali  or obtained by contacting EPA Community Involvement Coordinator Sarah White at 617-918-1026 or white.sarah@epa.gov or by visiting the Site information repository at the Berlin Public Library at 290 Main Street, Berlin, New Hampshire. (Note: Call in advance; the Berlin Library is closed to public at this time). Instructions for how to submit comments on the plan are also posted to the Chlor-Alkali website. 

After issuing the proposed plan, EPA will consider all written and oral comments submitted by residents, members of the public and interested stakeholders during the comment period and then make a formal decision selecting a cleanup plan. That cleanup plan will be set forth in a formal document known as a record of decision, which will include a response to comments section to address all comments received during the public comment period. EPA expects to issue the record of decision before the end of September 2020.

Site Description and History:

The former chlor-alkali facility at this site was historically part of a larger chemical plant associated with the former paper mills in Berlin. It is located on the east bank of the Androscoggin River, just downstream of the Sawmill Dam. From the late-1800s to the mid-1960s, the facility produced chlorine and other chemicals using electrolytic cells in "cell houses" on the property. Most of the on-site structures were torn down with the debris landfilled on-site. The last cell house was demolished in 1999, at which time the landfilled portion of the property was capped. Residual wastes from the historical manufacturing processes have been detected in ground water and soils at the site. Investigations reveal that despite earlier actions to address the source of contamination, mercury continues to appear in the Androscoggin River. Between 1999 and 2004 the State of New Hampshire recovered mercury from the riverbed. Mercury collection efforts have continued, the last in 2019. The recovered mercury and mercury-contaminated sediment has been shipped off-site for disposal.