Earlier this month, EPA and DEP provided another round of updates on the potential Superfund designation for the Fireworks Site in Hanover, Hanson and further downstream in Pembroke. The most recent presentations were similar to those presented to the Select Boards in September, with additional details around timeline and next steps. EPA created a new website to house all information related to this site, including slides from this morth’s meetings.

The Preliminary Assessment and Site Inspection have been completed, and the project is currently in the Site Assessment phase. During this phase, EPA will review any new data and reports that have been completed since they were last on-site 12 years ago. EPA will then determine the boundary of the Superfund designation and any additional data needed (such as sediment sampling), as well as completing the Hazard Ranking System for this site.

Once that is completed, the site will be officially proposed for the National Priorities List. The earliest that will happen is August 2025 and, at that point, there will be a 60-day comment period. EPA takes these comments seriously so this will be an important opportunity for residents to weigh in on the designation.  Until EPA has more information, it’s near impossible to tell how long the cleanup will take.

Figure 2. Slide from EPA presentation January 11, 2024

One of the concerns we heard from residents was around funding. Even if the potentially responsible parties do not come to a final agreement around compensation, Superfund has its own source of funding that can be used for the cleanup. EPA rep Bob Cianciarulo commented that there has never been a project that was not funded and, with the recent re-establishment of the chemical tax fund, the funds are readily available and will continue to be replenished each year.

Some residents expressed concern that a Superfund designation could impact property values but, and we cannot stress this enough, if this site is not cleaned up through the Superfund process it will languish as a contaminated site forever. The current state of the Fireworks Site is no secret. Anyone looking to buy a property now will certainly know about it, Superfund or not. Through Superfund, we have the opportunity to clean this undesirable, contaminated site and turn it into a benefit for the community.

For example, Cordage Park in Plymouth is a local example of a Superfund site that did not negatively impact property values and actually drew new business to the area after its cleanup. There are 40 similar sites in Massachusetts and EPA’s website provides full descriptions, including economic data related to the cleanup, for these sites.

There’s no denying that mistakes have been made in the past, but it’s time to look forward to envision a real future for this site and the Indian Head River as a whole. NSRWA and the Towns of Hanover, Hanson and Pembroke are looking into potential removal of two dams downstream from the Fireworks Site – State St Dam and Ludden’s Ford Dam – so the cleanup of the Fireworks Site needs to meet those future goals, as well.  If we let yesterday’s mistakes cloud today’s decision-making, this whole area will be left behind. 

What’s next? In order for this process to move forward, Hanover, Hanson and Pembroke Select Boards need to send a letter of support to the Governor, who will not recommend listing the site without documented Town support. Both Pembroke and Hanson have voted to submit a letter of support. 

Over the coming weeks, the Hanover Select Board will make their final decision, with a resident forum scheduled during the January 29 meeting.  If you live in Hanover, please follow their agendas and show up to have your voice heard. Emailing, calling and sending letters to the Select Board are also incredibly effective ways to let your elected officials know what is important to you. Don’t let this site sit, untreated, forever.