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Environmental Enforcement: $150m Cleanup Begins at Pfizer Site

Cleanup and construction work expected to cost $150 million has begun at a former Pharmacia & Upjohn manufacturing facility located in North Haven, Conn., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced.

The work, outlined in an updated agreement between Upjohn and the agency, will allow the contaminated site to be developed and restored for use as open space and light industry or commerce.

Pfizer Inc, Pharmacia & Upjohn’s parent company, will provide financial assurance for the cleanup.

The 78-acre site has a long history of industrial use, but all manufacturing stopped in 1993. The cleanup allows for future redevelopment of 17 acres of the site for commercial or light industrial use; the restoration of more than 60 acres of wetlands and meadow habitat along the Quinnipiac River; and walking trails for guided viewing and interpretative environmental education.

The agreement also involves:

– Extracting and treating groundwater and installing a subsurface barrier wall to prevent contaminated groundwater from reaching the Quinnipiac River;

– Treating the most concentrated area of contamination on the site, using a heat process to remove the primary source of groundwater contamination;

– Constructing barrier covers in several areas;

– Putting in place land use restrictions;

– Removing sediment from two areas of the Quinnipiac River tidal mud flats and from a small stretch of South Creek to minimize damage to the habitat;

– Long-term operation, monitoring, and maintenance of the remedy to verify future protection of the public and environment.

Prior owners of the property manufactured products used in dyes and pigments; photographic chemicals; sunscreen agents; additives for soaps, perfumes and cosmetics; agricultural herbicides; pharmaceuticals and photo-initiators.

The facility became contaminated through historical releases of manufacturing wastes and leftover residue from wastewater treatment. Significant contaminants include several different types of organic chemicals and metals, including, among others, PCBs, volatile organic compounds, and lead.

In 1989, the EPA’s New England office ordered Upjohn to assess the nature and scope of contamination at the site. That order, under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, has been fulfilled. In 1994, the EPA ordered the company to continue to enhance interim remedial measures, assess site risk, and evaluate remedial alternatives. The updated consent order, signed on March 31, 2011, requires the company to put in place the $150 million cleanup plan.

Over the past two decades, significant interim measures have been carried out, including installation of a state-of-the-art groundwater recovery and treatment system; decontamination and removal of above-ground structures; soil and sludge capping; and site security.

On April 16, 2003, Pfizer Inc acquired Pharmacia Corp. and assumed responsibility for the Pharmacia & Upjohn site. Pfizer has fully cooperated with the EPA and the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection to investigate and remediate the site, the EPA said. Engineering design and construction of the remedy is expected to take several years, after which the parties expect the site to enter into the long-term maintenance phase under terms set out in a Connecticut DEP permit.

Photo credit: Pharmacia & Upjohn LLC

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