EPA grant funds brownfields work in South Hadley, Ware


Staff Writer

Published: 08-14-2023 7:35 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — An industrial sites in South Hadley will be assessed for potential contamination and cleanup under a $500,000 grant awarded to the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission.

The money is part of a $13.7 million round of funding released last month by the Environmental Protection Agency for work at brownfields sites in Massachusetts.

The sites the commission has targeted for study in South Hadley are the Mill 6 building on the corner of Gaylord and Lamb streets and the South Hadley Electric Light Department (SHELD), 85 Main St.

“It’s required as part of the application to have target areas, priority sites that are potentially contaminated,” said John O’Leary, the commission’s principal planner, who wrote the grant application.

The commission will hire a consultant to test soils at these sites and identify any hazards found.

“We think there’s pollution based on what has happened at those sites,” Executive Director Kimberly Robinson said. “We’ll be looking for heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, petroleum and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons,” chemicals found in coal, crude oil and gasoline.

In an email, John Hine, chairman of the South Hadley Municipal Light Board, said the assessment of the SHELD site is not being driven by any known environmental concerns.

According to information supplied by Planning and Conservation Director Anne Capra, when the regional commission first applied for the brownfields grant, SHELD was preparing to move to a new location and the town was considering taking ownership of its Main Street property. Given the site’s past industrial use, it was added to a short list of sites to be assessed for contamination.

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“After three attempts, PVPC was just awarded the brownfield grant, and the SHELD site is on the list of potential sites for assessment,” Capra stated.

Hine noted that a transfer of ownership to the town is “very much in doubt, as in the past 3 years SHELD has been unable to purchase either enough developable land to build a new building or an existing building.”

Capra said the long vacant Mill 6 building was once part of the Rexham Graphics complex. Other buildings that were part of the complex have been redeveloped, she said, with E Ink Corp. running a successful manufacturing business on the Gaylord Street side.

O’Leary said he expects the work to get underway in the fall. If contamination is found, the job will include cleanup plans and community engagement. The commission has four years in which to spend the funds.

“It’s so important,” Robinson said. “The Pioneer Valley has a real legacy of industrial manufacturing, resulting in contaminated land. We need to figure out what’s there and get it cleaned up.”