The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) launched last week a full investigation of the dumping of contaminated soil from Brady Sullivan’s Mill West complex at the gravel pit off Brown Avenue in Londonderry, but it remains unclear who is to blame.
According to DES and independent environmental reports, soil samples from the site revealed elevated concentrations of tetrachlorethylene (PCE), which is commonly used in dry cleaning and has been classified as probably carcinogenic to humans.
In a Jan. 20 letter of deficiency, which the DES sent to Brady Sullivan and city officials in Manchester, the State requested Brady Sullivan remove and properly dispose of all contaminated soil and material transported from the gravel pit to an approved facility.
The letter detailed five deficiencies the DES identified related to the dumping, including removing approximately 375 tons of contaminated soil from the Mill West complex and transporting the hazardous materials to the Londonderry site.
The soils contained the contaminant PCE, along with bricks, concrete, asphalt and other pollutants.
Brady Sullivan Attorney Marc Pinard said in an email “Brady Sullivan had been informed prior to delivery of the materials that the NH DES had approved the delivery of such soil to such location.
“Other sites had been considered for the storage of the materials; however, Brady Sullivan’s third party environmental consultant advised Brady Sullivan at the time that NH DES had approved the Londonderry site for storage of the materials,” he wrote. “Brady Sullivan has had materials delivered to various disposal facilities over the years and has always acted in accordance with the advice of its third party consultants and NH DES direction.
“A portion of the soil in Londonderry has since been relocated to a disposal facility with NH DES approval and Brady Sullivan will continue to cooperate with NH DES for the removal of the remaining soil to an appropriate facility; although, Brady Sullivan is aware that in some instances NH DES does not require removal of soil but allows the soil to be treated in place,” he wrote.
DES Director of Public Participation Jim Martin said following issuance of their initial letter of deficiency, Brady Sullivan hired McKibben Environmental to complete a soil investigation and remediation; that report was submitted to the DES on April 1.
According to the investigation and remediation report findings, approximately 645 tons of urban soils from the Londonderry gravel pit, previously transported there from the Mill West property in Manchester, were removed and transported to the North Country Environmental Services landfill in Bethlehem for disposal as solid waste.
McKibben also observed bricks and other debris in adjacent soils outside the anticipated removal area and estimates the volume of the additional contaminated soils at the site to be approximately 4,875 cubic yards.
In addition to removing the contaminated soils, McKibben installed one monitoring well at the gravel pit to collect groundwater quality data. Initial groundwater sampling detected PCE at a concentration of 32 parts per billion, which exceeds ambient groundwater quality standard of 5 parts per billion, according to the report.
Based on McKibben’s findings, the DES broadened its investigation of Brady Sullivan’s dumping at the gravel pit to answer a number of questions, including who made the decision to dump soil from a site where it was established the soils were contaminated to the property in Londonderry without a permit, according to Martin.
“With a letter of deficiency, we say, ‘we’re aware you did something wrong, here’s what we know you did and here are the steps we want you to take to fix it.’ This is not the case in this situation,” Martin said. “We are asking for a full site investigation.”
But Pinard argues in his email, “It is essential to understand that Brady Sullivan was not responsible for the contamination of the soil at the Mill West property and has been involved in a lengthy process of cleaning up problems caused in the past by other parties.”
Martin said he reviewed Pinard’s statement with DES staff and they do not agree.
“DES did not give Brady Sullivan or their third party permission to remove contaminated soil from the Mill West property to the gravel pit in Londonderry,” he said.
While noting it’s possible the Attorney General’s Office could get involved, Martin emphasized it’s important for people to understand the DES is very much in the initial stages of its investigation, which they officially requested on April 20.
Londonderry Building Inspector Richard Canuel said the Town first learned of the illegal dumping Monday.
The DES did not forward a copy of the letter of deficiency sent to Brady Sullivan and the City of Manchester to Londonderry officials in January, according to Canuel.
“No response is required of us because the investigation is being done by DES and it’s their responsibility to take whatever enforcement or legal action to correct that problem,” he said. “But they should have included Londonderry in sending the letter, as well. I guess that was an oversight on their part.”
Town Manager Kevin Smith reiterated the initial letter of deficiency should have been shared with the Town in January and noted the discrepancy between statements from the DES and Brady Sullivan’s attorney.
He said it’s apparent someone is being dishonest.
With property owners located near the Brown Avenue gravel pit on city water, Canuel said DES has not yet raised concerns over ground water contamination to neighboring property owners.
“Our understanding is residential folks are on public water, but we have asked Brady Sullivan to confirm that,” Martin said. “What we have learned from responding to the issue of PFOA is we want to make sure there are no drinking water wells in that area to make certain there’s no risk of contamination.”