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Waste Site Cleanup & Reuse in New England
  Serving Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont & 9 Tribal Nations
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Map this site in Cleanups in My Community
 Berlin,  New Hampshire
 Coos County
 Street Address: Adjacent to Saw Mill Dam
 Zip Code: 03570

 EPA ID #: NHN000103313
 Site ID #: 0103313
 Site Aliases:

 Site Responsibility: Federal

 Proposed Date 04/27/2005
 Final Date 09/14/2005

Site Description
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The former Chlor-Alkali facility is located on approximately 4.6 acres along the east bank of the Androscoggin River just downstream of the Sawmill Dam in Berlin, New Hampshire. The center of the former facility is located at latitude 44o 28' 41.90" N and longitude 71o 10' 01.73"W. Currently, the former facility area is fenced and the contaminated material is covered with an impermeable membrane and two feet of wood chips. The contaminated material is also partially isolated from the environment by a slurry wall on the eastern edge of the debris. However, the debris rests directly on the overburden and bedrock and is in contact with the groundwater.

From the late 1800s to the 1960s, chlorine and other chemicals (e.g., caustic soda, hydrogen, chloroform) were produced using electrolytic cells in “cell houses” at the former facility. Diaphragm cells, and also possibly mercury cells, produced chlorine for use in the manufacture of paper at the adjacent pulp mill. The mercury and other contaminants associated with that process, including dioxin and PCBs, were disposed on-site. Most of the facility structures were razed and buried on the property in the 1960s. In 1999, the last cell house was demolished and most of the 4.6 acre property was capped. The property is currently vacant and owned by the bankrupt entity known as Pulp and Paper of America, LLC.

The Androscoggin River is currently designated “catch-and-release” from Berlin downstream to the Maine border. People who disregard this designation and eat fish caught in the river could be exposed to elevated levels of mercury and dioxin, both of which are highly toxic. Seven rare bird species are known to live or feed close to the Androscoggin River near the site and could, therefore, be harmed by the contaminants being released from the site. These species include the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, common nighthawk, northern harrier, osprey, common loon, and Cooper’s hawk.

Threats and Contaminants
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Residual wastes from the historical manufacture of chlorine (principally mercury, lead, dioxins, and furans) and other site activities have resulted in the contamination of ground water and soils on-site, and within the sediments of the adjacent Androscoggin River at concentrations significantly above background levels. In addition, beads of mercury can be seen seeping into the river from cracks in the bedrock at the edge of the former facility.

Cleanup Approach
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EPA began a Remedial Investigation (RI) during the summer of 2009 to characterize the nature and extent of contamination and evaluate the risks at and from the site. The second season of RI field work concluded in the autumn of 2010. The RI will form the basis for remedial action at the site and will result in a Feasibility Study (FS) that will evaluate potential cleanup measures. Once the RI and FS reports have been prepared for public review, EPA will propose a cleanup plan to the public, accepting public comments on the plan, and then select a remedial strategy for site cleanup. It is expected that the public meeting and hearing will occur around the spring and summer of 2012, and the final remedy is expected to be selected by EPA sometime during the autumn of 2012.

Response Action Status
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Initial Action In 1999, Crown Vantage Paper Company, which then owned the property, conducted closure activities intended to isolate contamination from the surrounding environment. All remaining buildings on the property were demolished, a slurry wall was constructed on two sides of the property, and an impermeable cap was constructed over most of the property. To address the mercury seeping through bedrock cracks into the Androscoggin River, grout was injected into some of the bedrock cracks. Despite these response activities, mercury still seeps into the Androscoggin River adjacent to the former facility.

Removal Activities Between 1999 and 2006, the property owner (Pulp and Paper of America, LLC) and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services removed over 135 pounds of mercury and mercury-containing sediments from the river and its bank.

Monitoring of the Androscoggin River and General Environment EPA collected surface water and sediment samples from several points along the Androscoggin River in 2006 and 2007. These points included samples upstream of the former facility and along the river through Gorham, NH. EPA used this preliminary data to better focus additional investigations during the summer of 2009. In July and August 2009, EPA collected samples of surface water, sediment, fish and other organisms within the river to determine the effect on the environment. Those results were used to perform a second phase of monitoring in and around the river during the summer of 2010.
During the summer of 2010, environmental sampling was expanded to include birds, bats, and insects to determine the distribution of contaminants in the environment.

Characterization of the Site During the summer of 2009, EPA began investigating the material under the cap at the 4.6 acre property. EPA obtained samples of debris, soil, rock, air and groundwater from beneath the cap through test-pitting and drilling. Those data were used to guide the performance of further investigations in 2010.

Characterization of area surrounding the Site Based on results of testing performed during the summer of 2009, EPA investigated the area surrounding the former facility in 2010.

Groundwater Investigation Additional wells have recently been installed on and around the former facility and are expected to be sampled in November 2010.

Remedial Investigation This document will contain the sampling results from the multiple field investigations and describe what current and future potential risks may be posed by the contamination found at and around the site.

Environmental Progress
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All remaining buildings on the property have been demolished, a slurry wall has been constructed on two sides of the property, and an impermeable cap has been placed over most of the property. To address the mercury seeping through bedrock cracks into the Androscoggin River, grout was injected into some of the bedrock cracks.

Current Site Status
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During the summer of 2009, EPA collected debris, soil, groundwater, air, surface water, sediment, fish and other organisms for chemical analysis. Based on the preliminary results of this sampling, EPA collected additional samples during 2010. EPA will begin evaluating all the collected data obtained from and around the former facility and will shortly commence preparation of the Remedial Investigation report which will present these findings.

Site Photos
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SDMS  452940
Looking south over the top of the capped, disposal area

SDMS 452941
Fractured bedrock that underlies the disposal area, adjacent to the Androscoggin River

Links to Other Site Information
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Disclaimer Instructions about PDF

Newsletters & Press Releases:
Press Releases about this project   

Federal Register Notices:
Proposed NPL Listing  
Final NPL Listing  

Reports and Studies:
Final Combined Preliminary Assessment/Site Inspection (PA/SI) Report, January 13, 2005 (78.9 MB)  
Aerial Photographic and Fracture Trace Analysis, February 1, 2008 (4.5 MB)  
Reuse Planning Report for the Cell House Property of the Chlor-Alkali Superfund Site, December 1, 2008 (4.7 MB)  
Groundwater Use and Value Determination, January 22, 2013 (3.7 MB)  
Remedial Investigation, Vol. 1, March 2014 (145 MB)  
Remedial Investigation, Vol. 2: Human Health Risk Assessment Rev. 2, January 2014 (13.5 MB)  
Remedial Investigation, Vol. 3A: Baseline Ecological Risk Assessment (River Study Area), March 2014 (49.4 MB)  
Remedial Investigation, Vol. 3B: Screening Level Ecological Risk Assessment (Terrestrial), February 2014 (7 MB)  

Decision Documents:
View Records of Decision (RODS) on-line (EPA HQ)  

Other Links:
NPL Site Narrative at Listing:  
Site Progress Profile  

Site Repositories
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New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, 29 Hazen Drive, Concord, NH 03302

OSRR Records and Information Center, 1st Floor, 5 Post Office Square, Suite 100 (HSC), Boston, MA 02109-3912 (617) 918-1440

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EPA Remedial Project Manager: Darryl Luce
Address: US Environmental Protection Agency
5 Post Office Square, Suite 100
Mail Code OSRR07-1
Boston, MA 02109-1367
Phone #: 617-918-1336
E-Mail Address: luce.darryl@epa.gov

EPA Community Involvement Coordinator: Sarah White
Address: US Environmental Protection Agency
5 Post Office Square, Suite 100
Mail Code ORA20-1
Boston, MA 02109-1367
Phone #: 617-918-1026
E-Mail Address: white.sarah@epa.gov

State Agency Contact: Andrew Hoffman
Address: 29 Hazen Drive
P.O. Box 95
Concord, NH 03302-0095
Phone #: 603-271-6778
E-Mail Address: andrew.hoffman@des.nh.gov


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Last updated on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
URL: http://www.epa.gov/region1/superfund/sites/chloralkali