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CONCORD

EPA cites gains on toxic site

Starmet update set for Wednesday

US Environmental Protection Agency/file

A scene inside a Starmet Corp. building in 2008, when the EPA announced plans to demolish the toxic-waste site’s structures.

Federal environmental officials and private contractors working to clean up the contaminated Starmet Corp. property on Main Street in Concord will provide an update this week on recent efforts to secure the site and plans to demolish the buildings there.

The meeting will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the town’s Harvey Wheeler Community Center.

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Melissa Taylor, an Environmental Protection Agency project manager, said officials will be on hand to discuss work done so far and answer questions about plans for removing the former Starmet buildings at 2229 Main St., a designated Superfund site contaminated with depleted uranium. Taylor will be there, along with cleanup contractors from de maximus inc., a representative from the Concord Fire Department, and members of local advocacy groups.

The last of the Starmet employees vacated the site in November, allowing the EPA to move forward with the cleanup, Taylor said. “Now we’re in the process of developing the plans for how we’ll go about doing the work,’’ Taylor said.

“It’s very detailed. There’s a lot of material and equipment inside that we have to remove before we demolish the buildings.’’

She said the cleanup and demolition of the buildings will take about three years.

Taylor said the employees finally abandoned the property after the Environmental Protection Agency reached a financial settlement last summer with the US Army, the US Department of Energy, Textron Inc., and Whittaker Corp., outlining responsibilities for funding the $70 million cleanup of what’s known as the Nuclear Metals Inc. Superfund site.

In 2001, the property was added to the Superfund National Priority List, which covers the country’s most serious hazardous-waste sites identified for possible long-term cleanup.

Pamela Rockwell, chairwoman of the 2229 Main Street Committee, which has been advocating for the property’s cleanup, said she’s thrilled the Starmet employees finally left so the project can begin in earnest.

“It’s wonderful to see activity there,’’ Rockwell said. “I feel a sigh of relief. It’s a big step forward, and I’m looking forward to the day when the buildings aren’t there anymore.’’

Rockwell said the meeting will help update residents who are seeing action at the site after a long lull.

She said contractors have cleared trees around the property, making it more visible from the road and possible for police to drive through on patrol.

“It’s not something people are used to seeing, because the site wasn’t visible from the road,’’ she said. “There are a lot of questions because of that. You’ll be able to see trucks coming in and out, and the buildings coming down.’’

According to the EPA, starting in 1958 various owners and operators used the Concord site for research and specialized metals manufacturing, and were licensed to possess low-level radioactive substances.

Between 1958 and 1985, the companies disposed of waste, contaminated with depleted uranium, copper, and nitric acid, into an unlined holding basin on the property. Other areas of the site were also used for the disposal of manufacturing waste.

Nuclear Metals operated on the property from 1972 until 1997, when the company changed its name to Starmet Corp. During that time, it manufactured munitions tipped with depleted uranium for the Army.

The site has multiple structures with a combined footprint of approximately 185,000 square feet, including a two-story, five-section interconnected building, several tank houses, storage huts, and storage buildings.

The structures, nearly 50 years old and in poor condition, are deteriorating and have multiple leaks. They are contaminated with high levels of depleted uranium, a radioactive and toxic material, and other hazardous substances.

To prevent the release of hazardous materials, the federal agency announced in 2008 that it would demolish the buildings, and worked to reach a financial settlement to pay for the project.

Once the EPA was able to take control of the building in November, officials have been working to secure the property and make sure it’s safe for the contractors, Taylor said.

She said the utilities were all disconnected, temporary ones installed, doors replaced, and pathways cleared for improved public-safety access.

Workers have been taking inventory to determine what toxic materials still need to be removed, she said.

“The focus has been on making sure the actual building is safe from all aspects,’’ she said. “A lot of the work we’ve been doing is to get the building stabilized.’’

At the same time, officials are developing the plans for how the rest of the work will be completed. The process should take about three years, Taylor said.

The focus this year is on the removal of materials inside, while the next two will involve piece-by-piece demolition of the structures.

Taylor said the EPA will also work with the town to develop a plan for reusing the property.

It is still owned by Starmet/Nuclear Metals, she said, although the site’s ownership is in flux because several liens have been placed against it.

Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at jflefferts@yahoo.com.
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