NHDES on side of the public's health and the environment
By Thomas Burack, Commissioner, NH Department of Environmental Services
In recent weeks, the Nashua Telegraph has published several articles and an editorial regarding the remedial efforts at the Beazer East, Inc. property in Nashua. As commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, I would like to clarify several facts about this important site and to reassure New Hampshire residents that DES is on the side of public health and the environment. The Department wishes there could be a simple and quick solution for cleanup of the Beazer property, but unfortunately this is one of the most complex contaminated sites in the state. The Beazer property, also known as the former Koppers Company property, was the site of a wood treatment facility. This facility primarily used creosote and other materials as wood preservative for railroad ties. Creosote is an oily liquid that is distilled from coal tar and it was mixed at the site with fuel oil and used in the wood preservation processes. Waste creosote from past on-site industrial processes was stored, released, or buried at the property during its more than fifty years of operation.
Near the end of operations at the site in the early 1980's, the state became aware of contamination reaching the Merrimack River along the southern boundary of the property. The first remediation activity to occur at the site was the installation of a groundwater treatment system in 1985. Over 200 million gallons of contaminated groundwater were pumped and treated, resulting in the recovery of over 120,000 gallons of creosote product. However, these initial efforts failed to stop creosote seeps from reaching the Merrimack River.
As new remedial technologies were advanced, subsequent efforts at the site included the 1997 construction of a sheet pile wall 750 feet long and ranging in depth from 16 to 47 feet along the site boundary adjacent to the river and the installation of two additional product recovery wells. The product recovery system was further expanded in 2000 and again in 2002. This expanded system resulted in the recovery of an additional 29,000 gallons of creosote but ultimately did not completely stop creosote outbreaks to the river. Therefore, DES initiated enforcement actions against Beazer East, Inc. in 2004 to compel them to evaluate the performance of the existing sheetpile wall and product recovery systems and to prepare a new cleanup plan. This effort resulted in a Consent Decree between the state and Beazer in 2007. It is important to note that as part of this process DES hired an independent consultant to help the state develop the work plan for evaluating the performance of the existing remediation systems and to assist with oversight of the implementation of the plan. At the conclusion of three years of extensive site investigation work in compliance with the Consent Decree, a data evaluation report was finalized in 2011. This report included a review of information from over 400 monitoring wells and soil borings, and concluded that additional cleanup measures would be necessary in order to stop the creosote from reaching the river. Extensive research, engineering and hydrogeological work went into a remedial action plan drafted in 2012. The plan includes installation of a second barrier wall, repairs to the existing wall, further soil excavation, in-place stabilization of creosote, removal of impacted river sediments, and more. The ultimate goal of this plan is to eliminate creosote outbreaks to the river. DES has approved this new cleanup plan subject to the addition of a further remedial component and the receipt of all necessary state and federal permits. Due to the complexity of the approved measures, actual remedial activities may not commence until later in 2014 or 2015.
DES is continuing its steadfast effort to ensure the cleanup of this complex site, to build on the efforts made to date, to implement additional remedial actions, and to ensure that all discharges of creosote to the river are stopped. We will continue our open and transparent activities on the site, including being available to speak with any concerned residents and providing updates to the city of Nashua, such as the one we will be giving to the Nashua Waterways Committee in the coming days. As the history of extensive assessment and remedial activities at the Beazer site demonstrates, the public can be assured that DES is and always has been on the side of protecting the public's health and the environment.