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Public is mum as DES outlines Liberty Hill proposal

December 01, 2010
There was little comment but a lot of support from Liberty Hill Road residents after they heard recommendations from the Department of Environmental Services for full removal of the coal tar that has plagued their neighborhood for nearly 60 years.

John Regan, supervisor of the Waste Management Division Hazardous Waste Remediation Bureau under DES, led off the presentation on Nov. 23 by saying the state had looked at seven different options along with addendums to some of those plans as they tried to determine the best way to proceed. In the end, two plans were left on the table for consideration in their discussions with National Grid, the utility company and current owners of the property who are assuming responsibility for clean-up of the toxic waste.

HWRB representative Michael McCluskey said at the hearing that National Grid's Remedial Action Addendum 5a called for a "passive solution," which would utilize a containment wall with a system of wells and pumps after removal of approximately 80 percent of the coal tar. A water treatment system would be built inside that wall to decontaminate groundwater at the site before releasing it into the watershed of nearby Jewett Brook.

"It takes a lot of fine tuning to make (a system like this) work the way you want it to," McCluskey said.

In addition to the expense of equipment and monitoring, he said it would be 140 years before groundwater from the site would be returned to its natural state under this plan. After careful examination of the plan, he said RAA5a did not meet their criteria of long-term maintenance.

"The bottom line is we don't have the experience to know if it can even be maintained for 140 years plus. We can't conclude with confidence that it wouldn't have to be modified over the years," said McCluskey.

The other option National Grid presented to DES was Remedial Action Addendum 1, which essentially calls for the complete removal of the coal tar.

RAA1 met all of the DES requirements for a remedial action plan with a minimal amount of future maintenance to the site other than some routine monitoring. DES therefore proposed to recommend that National Grid move forward with RAA1. McCluskey said the process would last over two construction seasons.

When the floor opened up to public comment, Town Administrator Scott Dunn pointed out National Grid still had the option to appeal the decision of DES should the company object to the recommendation. He asked for an outline of that process. Regan said a mediation process could take place before an appeal and often any issues between hazardous waste officials and the property owners are resolved in that manner.

Gilford Town Attorney Tupper Kinder explained that should mediation fail, National Grid would first appeal to the Waste Management Council and from there could progress upward to the state Supreme Court if they so chose.

DES representative Sherry Godlewski told the audience there would be a 60-day period for further public comment before the final decision by DES would be made. Residents and interested parties can write or email McCluskey or Regan within that time period, which was being extended from 30 days due to the holidays.

The only other comment of the evening came from resident Bill Edgar who felt enough time had passed and he wanted a quicker decision.

"I think 60 days is too long. Way too long. You had a year to put this together. Thirty days max. Get it over with. Do it," Edgar said.

Regan said they would take his comment under advisement that evening but he was in no position to change the deadline at that time. He told residents they could check the DES website to see if there would be any change in the near future.

Those who would still like to comment on the removal of the toxic waste as proposed in RAA1 may do so by emailing michael.mccluskey@des.nh.gov, john.regan@des.nh.gov, or by phoning McCluskey at 271-2183 and Regan at 271-3744. Mail may be addressed to the Hazardous Waste Remediation Bureau, N.H. DES, P.O. Box 95 Concord, N.H. 03302-0095. The deadline for public comment is Jan. 2.

Varney Smith
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