SALEM, NH – The old contaminated sewage treatment plant next to Highway 28 is almost a thing of the past.
Soil remediation is all that’s left, according to City Services Manager Roy Sorenson.
“Basically they’re going to heat the ground, put a big blanket on it and cook the ground below,” he explained.
The story of the spot is more complicated, and such progress has lasted for decades. Records show the city paid $ 100,000 per year for nearly 30 years to monitor the site.
Authorities have been aware of its contamination since 1986, when the sewage treatment plant could no longer meet demand after 22 years.
A construction crew was brought in to connect the system to a regional factory, according to city records, and workers discovered a disposal pit with black sludge and noxious fumes.
A team of environmental engineers hired by the city the following year believed the “hot spot” was the result of years of illegal septic dumps and industrial waste, but they couldn’t be sure.
Sorenson recently described for selectmen the sporadic work done over the years. He recalls looking for answers in 2016 when he was hired in Salem.
“We brought in the engineers and said, ‘My team needs to understand exactly what’s going on; what do you have, what do you know, where are we going and what’s that timeline? “
The city has since worked with its third engineer.
Selectmen discussed selling the property after it was cleaned. Whoever owns it will need to monitor the site over the long term to ensure safe contaminant levels.
Funding for the latter part of the project is expected to go ahead of voters in the March 2022 election. The cost of demolition was $ 1.5 million and about $ 5 million more is needed for cleanup costs.