NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 26, 2011

Cleanup of former coal gasification plant to begin National Grid to begin cleanup of former coal gasification plant

AMESBURY — Reminders of the town's past as an industrial powerhouse are about to be unearthed as National Grid looks to clean up by-products left behind from a former coal gasification site.

Amesbury's Planning Board and Conservation Commission met in a joint session Monday night to hear National Grid's plans for the $2.4 million clean-up project for its property at 39 Water St.

As the utility company begins the process of filing for permits, creating site plans and hiring consultants for the cleanup, Amesbury officials thought it was prudent to learn the details together to allow for a "streamlined, seamless approach," Conservation Agent John Lopez said.

"It's an overall view of what will be needed," Lopez said.

Because the affected land is within a riverfront area, it is governed by the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act and Amesbury's wetlands ordinances and is subject to a higher level of regulatory review.

The Water Street site is the former home of the Amesbury Manufactured Gas Plant, an industrial company that thrived at the turn of the 20th century as it gasified coal to illuminate lamps and generate electricity for the town. The coal tar and by-products of the process, then not seen as harmful, were disposed in the river and left to seep into the land.

Now more than 100 years later, National Grid owns the 1.8-acre property and is legally responsible for cleaning up the coal tar and its by-products.

According to an environmental notification form filed with the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, contamination exists within the soil, groundwater, sediment and surface water. Cleanup will occur at two lots at 39 Water St., one owned by National Grid and another by the city, and a third parcel at 33 Oakland St., which is privately owned and was sullied by migrating contaminants. The total affected land is a little more than two acres. National Grid will cover the $2.4 million cost.

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