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Parcel Handed Over to City of Claremont After Soil Cleanup

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 10/10/2018 12:21:43 AM
Modified: 10/11/2018 2:41:45 PM

Claremont — Ten years after city employees noticed a suspicious sheen on the Sugar River and three years after contaminated soil from a former gas plant was removed, ownership of the roughly 1½-acre parcel on the north side of the river was handed over to the city on Tuesday, letting officials move forward with redevelopment efforts.

“I think this turned out extraordinarily well,” City Manager Ryan McNutt said at the event officially transferring ownership of the property to the city from AmeriGas. “The site has a lot of potential.”

That potential isn’t limitless; McNutt said “activity use” restrictions include a playground and day care. But restaurants, retail and a brewery are all allowed, as well most other development ideas.

Environmental Protection Agency officials lauded those who worked together to see to the project completed.

“The former Synergy Manufacturing gas facility is now suitable for reuse and redevelopment after a successful hazardous waste cleanup at the site,” Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, regional administrator with the EPA in Boston, announced to a small crowd at the site.

Dunn credited the cleanup work to a partnership with AmeriGas, which had owned it since 1988, as well as federal, state and local officials.

“It doesn’t happen without partnership and a vision and a desire to see something different,” Dunn said.

Bob Scott with the state Department of Environmental Services said the 2015 cleanup included the excavation and removal of 9,000 tons of contaminated soil that was taken off-site for treatment and another 7,500 tons treated on site.

The soil, saturated with coal tar, a byproduct of the manufacturing process that produced gas, was removed from both the property and a section of river bottom adjacent to the land.

“We removed soil, sludge and sediment contaminated with coal tar,” Dunn said. “We also installed a sewer line, monitored the groundwater, demolished some very unattractive dilapidated buildings and stabilized the river bank. So now that this site has been cleaned up to EPA requirements, it is ready for redevelopment. This former contaminated property can now be part of Claremont’s future and I can’t imagine a more beautiful overlook for a property. Thank you for having the vision to look ahead and to think about what could be here.”

Stephen Kossuth, AmeriGas’ eastern region vice president of operations, said his company was willing to accept responsibility for the cleanup. EPA officials said AmeriGas put $3.4 million toward the cleanup, while the EPA paid $1.5 million.

“Today is an example of what industry can do when it partners with regulators,” Kossuth said of the event on Tuesday. “When you look at the site before-and-after pictures,” he said, standing near several large posters with photos of the work that was done and the crumbling buildings, “it is really a remarkable outcome that happened as a result of this partnership.”

“It gives me great pleasure in gifting this land back to Claremont,” he said.

The city had no financial responsibility for the work, and tonight the City Council is expected to accept $75,000 from AmeriGas to cover groundwater monitoring costs, Claremont Planning and Development Director Nancy Merrill said.

Merrill, along with former city attorney Jane Taylor and former City Manager Guy Santagate, spent years on the cleanup effort and remembered when they noticed the contamination around 2008.

Merrill said when the river level had been lowered to do some foundation work on a building along Water Street during the Water Street mill redevelopment, the coal tar began leaching from the soil.

“We could see the sheen, then started to smell it,” said Merrill, whose office is in the visitors’ center on North Street, which sits above the gas plant property.

The facility manufactured gas-powered lights for streets and buildings, including textile manufacturer Monadnock Mills on the south side of the river, in the second half of the 19th century. By the 1860s, it was producing 2 million cubic feet of illuminating gas. In the early 20th century, the gas was delivered to homes for gas-fired appliances.

Enviro-Air Technologies of Coopersburg, Pa., did the cleanup, which began after a few years of test borings and analysis helped determine the location of the contamination and how far it may have spread.

The gas plant was on the state historic register and was documented with photographs and measurements, but it was in such a state of disrepair that little to none of it was salvageable.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@msn.com

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