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Waste Site Cleanup & Reuse in New England
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 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 Site consists of a chemical plant that included a Chlor-Alkali plant and is located on the east bank of the Androscoggin River just downstream of the Sawmill Dam in Berlin, New Hampshire. The former facility is located at latitude 44o 28' 41.90" N and longitude 71o 10' 01.73"W. The former facility area consists of a 4.6 acre on-site landfill with an impermeable membrane cover and two feet of wood chips and vacant land where the chemical plant operated. The landfill is 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 chemical plant operations, 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 the 4.6 acre Cell House Parcel landfill was created.

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 PCBs, mercury and dioxin, all 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, PCBs, 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 western edge of the Cell House Parcel landfill and into the Androscoggin River.

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 RI was issued in March 2014 and found potential risk to human health and the environment. Additional studies are necessary to design a remedy at the site and will result in a Feasibility Study (FS) that will evaluate potential cleanup measures. Once the FS report has 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 in 2016-2017, and the final remedy is expected to be selected by EPA sometime during 2017.

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 landfill and on surrounding land. EPA obtained samples of debris, soil, rock, air and groundwater 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 and 2011.

Groundwater Investigation Periodic groundwater sampling has found significant concentrations of contaminants in shallow and deep bedrock groundwater.

Remedial Investigation The current RI document was issued in March 2014 and is publically available, This report contains the sampling results from the multiple field investigations performed between 2006-2011 and describes what current and future potential risks may be posed by the contamination found at and around the site.

Feasibility Study To evaluate and design a remedy for the Site, it has been determined that additional investigations and a waste treatment/disposal pilot study are needed at the site. These investigations are beginning and will be occurring during the summer of 2015 and likely into 2016.

Remedy Decision After the Feasibility Study is complete, a remedy will be proposed for the public to evaluate. It is hoped a remedy will be proposed and selected in 2017.

Enforcement HighlightsOn April 21, 2015 EPA entered into an Administrative Settlement with Georgia-Pacific to perform additional investigations at the Site to better characterize wastes for disposal. During summer 2015 and 2016, Georgia-Pacific will be investigating wastes in the Cell House Parcel, groundwater, and the hydraulic connection between the Cell House Parcel and the Androscoggin River. This work will better refine a future remedy.

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 the landfill. The remaining property contains isolated contamination that will be examined with respect to potential remedies. Following the collection of debris, soil, groundwater, air, surface water, sediment, fish and other organisms for chemical analysis, EPA prepared a Remedial Investigation that found the potential for risk to human health to trespassers that contacted wastes on-site and to fishermen that consume fish caught down-stream of Sawmill Dam. The State of New Hampshire prohibits keeping fish caught in this section of the river.

Current Site Status
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EPA is preparing to oversee performance of supplemental remedial investigations at the Site by Georgia-Pacific to better determine feasible alternatives for addressing contamination at the Site. These supplemental activities are expected to occur during Summer 2015 and likely into 2016.

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)  

Settlement Documents:
Administrative Settlement Agreement (ASA) and Order on Consent (AOC) for Supplemental Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS), April 16, 2015 (1.71 MB)  

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, November 3rd, 2015
URL: http://www.epa.gov/region1/superfund/sites/chloralkali