EPA’s $500,000 grant will help (finally) clean Boscawen’s old tannery site

  • The Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $500,000 to help in the long-sought cleanup of the Allied Leather tannery site in Boscawen. Melissa Curran—Monitor staff

  • The Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $500,000 to help in the long-sought cleanup of the Allied Leather tannery site in Boscawen. Melissa Curran—Monitor staff

  • The Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $500,000 to help in the long-sought cleanup of the Allied Leather tannery site in Boscawen. Melissa Curran—Monitor staff

  • The Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $500,000 to help in the long-sought cleanup of the Allied Leather tannery site in Boscawen. Melissa Curran—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 5/12/2021 4:07:23 PM

The Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $500,000 to help in the long-sought cleanup of the Allied Leather tannery site in Boscawen, producing a moment of reminiscing from the head of the town’s select board.

“I learned to drive on Commercial Street where our dilapidated mill buildings are, when I was a kid. I looked at those buildings and thought, one day I’ve love to see this area cleaned up and this site developed into something useful for our town,” Lorrie Carey said Wednesday during a presentation about the grant. “Fast forward decades and here we are. The dream is finally going to come true.”

“This is an opportunity to clean up a blighted area that we didn’t have the resources to do.”

The money will go along with $100,000 that voters approved at Town Meeting in March to tear down remnants of the old buildings on slightly more than an acre of land along the Contoocook River, and clean up environmental problems left by decades of tannery work.

The federal grant comes under the EPA’s Brownfields program, which cleans up old industrial sites so they can be used again.

“It is living proof that environmental protection and economic investment can go hand in hand,” said Deb Szaro, acting regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency in New England.

A much bigger Allied Tannery site in nearby Penacook has been cleaned up and is the site of 34 apartments, with more to come.

The Boscawen parcel began as a sawmill in the 1820s and was used for various mill operations until 1953, when it became a leather tannery. It has been empty since 1987 and the buildings are crumbling and covered with vines and trees. The site is contaminated with a variety of toxins, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, petroleum and metals.

Tear-down could begin as early as this fall, although EPA said it could take up to three years to produce a “clean build site,” said Boscawen Town Administrator Alan Hardy.

“I suspect there will be a lot of ideas of different uses for it, but at the end of the day it’s got to be of interest to a develop that wants to invest,” he said.

Hardy noted that a developer might have to replace the site’s water line, which is extremely old, although the sewer line is relatively new. Also, that stretch of Commercial Street needs considerable work because, he said, the town has put off repairs since redeveloping the Allied Leather site will probably require tearing the road up.

One likely result of a cleanup will be to connect the Boscawen and Penacook portions of the Northern Rail Trail, which are currently separated by about a half mile around the Allied Tannery site.

“I know the town will be absolutely thrilled this is finally going to happen. An area of town that has been underutilized for decades, will finally be cleaned up and made into something useful,” said Carey.

The EPA also awarded $300,000 to the town of Jaffrey to help plan cleanup of two contaminated sites.

The grants are among $66.5 million give to 151 communities across the nation through EPA’s Multipurpose, Assessment, and Cleanup (MAC) grants.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.


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