LOCATION OF INJURY

Connecticut River in Holyoke, MA

DATE OF INJURY

1852, 1990 and ongoing

DATE AND AMOUNT OF SETTLEMENT

2004 at $500,000

NRD SETTLEMENT FUNDS AVAILABLE

$345,000

RESPONSIBLE PARTY

Holyoke Gas & Electric Department and Holyoke Water Power Company

NATURAL RESOURCE TRUSTEES

MA Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA)
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)

RELEASE OF HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES

Release of coal tar into the Connecticut River resulting from the manufacturing of combustible gas from coal for over 100 years

INJURED RESOURCES

Surface water, fisheries, rare freshwater mussels

RESTORATION STATUS

Restoration planning is ongoing

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Connecticut River Watershed DRAFT Assessment Plan 2003
NHESP Fact Sheet for Yellow Lampmussel pdf format of Yellow Lampmussel Renewable Energy Projects at State Agencies: A step-by-step Guide to Identifying, Planning and Funding Projects pdf format of 07_renewable_funding_guide.pdf
NHESP Fact Sheet for Shortnose Sturgeon pdf format of Shortnose Sturgeon Renewable Energy Projects at State Agencies: A step-by-step Guide to Identifying, Planning and Funding Projects pdf format of 07_renewable_funding_guide.pdf
NHESP Fact Sheet for Tidewater Mucket pdf format of Tidewater Mucket Renewable Energy Projects at State Agencies: A step-by-step Guide to Identifying, Planning and Funding Projects pdf format of 07_renewable_funding_guide.pdf

 

Holyoke Coal Tar Site (RTN 1-1055) NRD Case Settlement

In 2004, state and federal natural resource Trustees reached a settlement agreement with the Holyoke Gas & Electric Department and the Holyoke Water Company for natural resource damages in the amount of $500,000.

Natural Resource Trustees

Trustees for the Holyoke Coal Tar Site (RTN 1-1055) include the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Site History

The former Gas Works in Holyoke manufactured combustible gas from coal and oil for residential, commercial, and industrial heating and lighting from 1852 to 1951. The former Gas Works once occupied a 2-acre peninsula on the Connecticut River 1500 feet downstream of the Holyoke Dam. Historic operations resulted in large releases of tar and oil to soil, groundwater, sediment, and surface water. In 1990, oil/tar was observed discharging into the Hadley Falls tailrace and reported to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (Mass DEP). The Gas Works utilized two types of manufacturing processes: coal carbonization and the carbureted water-gas process. Each process generated tar as a by-product, namely coal tar and carbureted water-gas tar. According to records research and calculations performed by Mass DEP, this manufactured gas plant ("MGP") produced approximately ten million gallons of MGP tar during its 100 years of operations.

Assessment and cleanup are required under the Massachusetts Contingency Plan (M.G.L. Chapter 21E) and Mass DEP provides oversight. The potentially responsible parties (PRPs), conducting the cleanup work, are the former owner/operators of the facility: Holyoke Water Power Company (HWP), owner/operator from 1852-1902, Holyoke Gas & Electric Department (HG&E), owner/operator from 1902-1952, and the City of Holyoke. Northeast Utilities Service Company, agent for HWP, is conducting the cleanup of tar deposits in the river (RTN 1-1055), and HG&E is conducting the cleanup of the upland area and the No.2 Raceway (RTN 1-816).

Between 2002 and 2006, 11,714 cubic yards of tar and tarry sediment were removed. The removal was accomplished using mechanical excavation in dry (dewatered) areas and in wet excavations where dewatering was impractical or not feasible. The work was performed during summer and fall months to avoid critical fish life cycles, migratory periods, and dangerous high flow conditions. Mussel and fish relocation were conducted to reduce exposures in work areas. The Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program provided oversight to a mussel removal and relocation program that resulted in the relocation of 26,000 mussels between 2002 and 2005. Additional studies of the river contamination are on-going as overseen by Mass DEP.

Injured Natural Resources

Releases of MGP tar attributable to the Site have caused injuries to natural resources of the Connecticut River. The tar deposits exist in an area known to provide spawning habitat for the federally endangered short-nose sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum). Tar deposits also coexist in habitat for two state-protected mussel species, the Tidewater mucket (Ligumia ochracea) and Yellow lampmussel (Lampsilis cariosa), and numerous finfish and common mussel species.

Two types of MGP tar patches, "hard" and "soft," have been characterized in the vicinity of the Site. Both types of tar patches are inhospitable to burrowing benthic fauna, such as freshwater mussels, and to some epifauna that rely on coarser-textured substrates for shelter. A decrease in the benthic community produces a decrease in the foraging opportunities for other components of the ecosystem, such as finfish. In this manner, MGP tar patches produce ecological damage by destroying habitat for benthic organisms and for the organisms that depend on the benthic community as food.

Restoration Planning

Restoration planning is ongoing.

The Public's Role

A Draft Restoration Plan will be made available for public comment.

PSC Resources NRD Trustee Contacts

MA Department of Environmental Protection
Karen Pelto
617.292.5785
Karen.Pelto@state.ma.us

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Ken Finkelstein
617.918.1291
Ken.Finkelstein@noaa.gov

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Veronica Varela
603.223.2541
Veronica_Varela@fws.gov

 


This information is provided by the Massachusetts Natural Damages Assessment and Restoration.