Keene Celebrates Monumental Environmental Effort

Grading remediated

A cooperative environmental project involving PSNH, parent company Northeast Utilities (NU), the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, and officials from the City of Keene has reached the finish line after a seven-year marathon.

  By Laurel Brown, Western/Central Community Relations Specialist

Following one of the most painstaking environmental projects in NU history, representatives from the environmental engineering firm Weston and Sampson (Peabody, MA) informed the Keene City Council last month that, except for a delay caused by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene last August, the $13.5 million coal tar cleanup project on and near PSNH-owned property was complete.

PSNH initiated the cleanup because the site, which was once home to a manufactured gas plant that heated coal to produce gas for lighting and heating from 1859 until the mid–1950s, was owned and operated by PSNH from 1926 to 1945. In 1979, the company reacquired the 227 Emerald Street parcel for use as a district office.

Environmental issues related to coal tar byproducts were discovered on the site in 1995. Fully funded by PSNH, the project began in 2005 and included the labor-intensive remediation of land-based contaminated soil, as well as riverbed and banking soils from the nearby Ashuelot River and Mill Creek.

Overseeing the cleanup effort for NU was Bill Hoynack, manager of Audit and Remediation. Project manager was NU senior environmental specialist Chris Soroka.

Crews were faced with the time-consuming tasks of carefully digging as much as seven feet deep into the riverbed of the nearby Ashuelot River and Mill Creek, and then safely disposing of several thousand tons of contaminated sediment.

But it wasn’t all just “out with the bad.” The “in with the good” aspects of this project included carefully returning the area to its natural state—excavated areas were backfilled with clean dirt, and graded to complement the landscape. Workers also stabilized and restored those portions of the property where contaminated soils were temporarily stockpiled before being transported.

During the cleanup process itself, crews installed five air-monitoring stations designed to continuously log dust and organic particles. Odor control procedures included a combination of water spraying, odor-suppressant foam, plastic sheeting, and occasional fragrance misting.

This marathon cleanup project is not only a testament to what can happen when utilities, state government agencies, and local officials work together for the common good, it represents PSNH’s commitment to quality of life for the communities it serves. Whether it’s a local environmental initiative, economic development assistance, or even volunteering to help fill a need for a hometown nonprofit, PSNH employees have a deep conviction that, in addition to providing reliable electric service, we have a unique responsibility to help make cities like Keene, and all of New Hampshire, a great place in which to live.

Each month in Plugged In, one of PSNH’s Community Relations Specialists highlights the company’s involvement in local cooperative energy efficiency programs, energy education, and nonprofit and civic projects.