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Innovative Technology Will Reduce Cleanup Time at Lowell Mass. Silresim Site

Release Date: 08/15/2011
Contact Information: Kelsey O’Neil, (617) 918-1003

(Boston, Mass. – Aug. 15, 2011) – The Silresim Superfund Site in Lowell, Mass. is in the final phase of completing cleanup construction, using innovative technology which will reduce the amount of time needed to clean groundwater of contamination.  EPA officials today toured the site to inspect progress of the cutting-edge work, along with U.S. Representative Niki Tsongas and Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP).

“By speeding the cleanup time for the Silresim site in Lowell, we are helping the City to get this property back into productive use for the community,” said Ira Leighton, deputy regional administrator of EPA’s New England office.  “The work here was advanced significantly by a $20 Million investment from President Obama’s Recovery Act, which has helped ensure that Lowell’s citizens can prosper in a clean and healthy environment. The ARRA investment also created 12 good local jobs.”

Crews have been working since mid-2010 to implement a thermally-enhanced soil vapor extraction (SVE) technology, referred to as Electrical Resistive Heating or “ERH” at the site.  This technology utilizes electrical current passed through soil and groundwater to heat the subsurface which, in turn, releases more organic vapors. The vapors are then collected and treated.  Over a period of approximately nine months, officials estimate that more than 100,000 pounds of chemicals will be removed from groundwater and soil, greatly reducing the time that groundwater treatment by MassDEP will be necessary. 

Member of Congress Niki Tsongas said, "For more than 30 years, harmful chemicals and pollutants have been emitted from the site of the former Silresim Chemical plant. But a significant investment in Lowell through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has helped to remove the dangers posed by this once polluted site and in the process has created jobs and future development opportunities for the City.  This is an excellent example of federal, state, and local partners working cooperatively to improve both our environment and the health of our cities."

“I want to thank the EPA, Congresswoman Tsongas and our federal partners for funding a majority of the installation of this innovative technology,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kimmell. “The operation of this ERH system ensures that the Silresim site is cleaned up more quickly, which reduces the long-term risk for the environment and human health. It also means millions of dollars in savings for the Commonwealth in the operation of the groundwater treatment system.”

This construction project is being completed thanks, in large part, to the cooperation of numerous stakeholders -- notably the MassDEP, National Grid, and abutting property owners.  Funding for this work was provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  Nobis Engineering, Inc., a Lowell-based engineering firm, is under contract with EPA to oversee construction and monitor project progress.

A major obstacle to construction was the lack of sufficient electrical power available at this location.  Accordingly, National Grid has made strides to construct temporary utility service so as to allow the project to be operational.

The Silresim Chemical Corporation site is located at 86 Tanner Street and consists of the 4.5-acre Silresim property and soil and groundwater contamination that extends to other nearby properties. The Silresim site has a long history of heavy industrial use.  In 1971, Silresim began reclaiming a variety of chemical wastes, waste oil, solvents, and sludges containing heavy metals.  In 1977, Silresim declared bankruptcy and abandoned the property, leaving behind 30,000 decaying drums and large storage tanks. The state began to clean up the site in 1978. In 1982, the site was listed on the National Priorities (Superfund) List. Investigations conducted by both the state and the responsible parties indicated that numerous spills and leaks from drums had occurred that contaminated the soil and groundwater at the site. Previous cleanup actions included the removal of thousands of drums, construction of an interim cap over contaminated soils, and the construction of a plant to extract and treat contaminated groundwater.  Operation and maintenance of this groundwater treatment plant is ongoing under the direction of MassDEP.

More information:

History of cleanup work at Silresim Superfund site (http://www.epa.gov/region1/superfund/sites/silresim)

Work at Silresim Superfund site under American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding (http://www.epa.gov/superfund/eparecovery/silresim.html)

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