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Updated Information on Chlor-Alkali Superfund Site in Berlin, N.H.; Public Community Meeting will be Thurs. May 29

Release Date: 05/22/2014
Contact Information: Sarah White, (617) 918-1026

BOSTON – EPA and New Hampshire Dept. of Environmental Services will hold a Public Informational Meeting at Berlin City Hall in Berlin, N.H. on May 29. The meeting, which is open to all, will give community residents an update on environmental site investigations, and provide an opportunity for the public to obtain information and ask questions about environmental cleanup activities related to the Chlor-Alkali Superfund site.

The public meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 29, and will be held in the Berlin City Hall (Meeting Hall room). Berlin City Hall is located at 168 Main Street in Berlin.

The Chlor-Alkali Superfund site is located along the east bank of the Androscoggin River south of Saw Mill dam. The property was a chemical plant that supported the production of paper in local mills, in addition to other products. Elemental mercury and other contaminants have and continue to migrate from the site and into the Androscoggin River.

The site was added to the National Priorities List (aka Superfund list) in 2005. EPA began a formal environmental investigation known as a Remedial Investigation (RI) in 2009. This work characterized the contamination found at the site, and evaluated the risks to human health and the environment from that contamination. EPA released the final Remedial Investigation in March 2013.

The Scope of EPA’s Remedial Investigation:
EPA’s investigation focused on four areas: the Cell House Parcel, the Southern Facility Study Area, the Eastern Facility Study Area, and the Androscoggin River. The investigation collected samples from soil, debris, groundwater, air, surface water, sediment, insects, fish, birds, bats and Bald Eagles.

EPA’s Findings from the Remedial Investigation:
Elemental mercury and other contaminants continue to discharge to the east bank of the Androscoggin River, below Saw Mill Dam. The analysis of samples collected during the RI found that soils, debris and groundwater in the Cell House Parcel, Southern Facility Study Area, and Eastern Facility Study Area are contaminated with dioxins, furans, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds, Volatile Organic Compounds, metals that include mercury, arsenic, lead and several other compounds. Contaminated groundwater continues to discharge from the site transporting contaminants to the Androscoggin River. In the Androscoggin River, EPA found sediment, fish and other organisms contaminated with the same contaminants found in the soil at the site.

Summary of Human Health and Environmental Risk Evaluations:
EPA conducted risk assessments that evaluated the impact of site contaminants on human health and the environment of the area. EPA determined that human health risk exceeded EPA’s acceptable threshold for both cancer and non-cancer in soils, debris, and groundwater at the Cell House Parcel, Southern and Eastern Facilities Area. In the Androscoggin River, EPA found that the risk to recreational anglers, from consuming fish downstream of the site, exceeds EPA’s acceptable threshold for both cancer and non-cancer risk. In other words, EPA believes that exposure to site contaminants in soils, debris, and groundwater, or eating fish from downstream of the site, poses an unacceptable risk to human health.

EPA determined risk to the environment in both the Androscoggin River and in the wetlands and natural areas that comprise the Cell House Parcel and the Southern and Eastern Facility Study Areas. Despite the continual discharge of elemental mercury into the Androscoggin River, EPA found no significant decrease in the survival of aquatic and animal life. Within the Southern and Eastern Facility Study Areas, concentrations were high and these areas may pose a significant risk to birds and mammals.

Based on the results of site investigations, EPA will evaluate various alternatives for cleaning up the Chlor-Alkali site. EPA will then release a proposed plan for public review and comment, which will present the alternatives to clean up the site. EPA will hold another public information meeting and a public hearing so that members of the public can learn more about the alternatives and provide comment. Although no date has been officially set, EPA expects the proposed plan to be released in Autumn 2014 and public informational meeting to be scheduled sometime shortly thereafter.

More information on EPA work at Chlor-Alkali Superfund Site: http://www.epa.gov/region1/superfund/sites/chloralkali

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