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Mohawk Tannery: A reminder of Nashua’s industrialized past

Chain+linked+fence+surround+the+grounds+of+the+EPA+proposed+Superfund+site+where+the+former+tannery+remained+in+operation+from+1924+to+1984.+Throughout+the+lifetime+of+the+plant%2C+chemicals+involved+in+the+leather+tanning+process+were+discharged+into+on-site+lagoons.+
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Mohawk Tannery: A reminder of Nashua’s industrialized past

Chain linked fence surround the grounds of the EPA proposed Superfund site where the former tannery remained in operation from 1924 to 1984. Throughout the lifetime of the plant, chemicals involved in the leather tanning process were discharged into on-site lagoons.

Chain linked fence surround the grounds of the EPA proposed Superfund site where the former tannery remained in operation from 1924 to 1984. Throughout the lifetime of the plant, chemicals involved in the leather tanning process were discharged into on-site lagoons.

Harry Bates

Chain linked fence surround the grounds of the EPA proposed Superfund site where the former tannery remained in operation from 1924 to 1984. Throughout the lifetime of the plant, chemicals involved in the leather tanning process were discharged into on-site lagoons.

Harry Bates

Harry Bates

Chain linked fence surround the grounds of the EPA proposed Superfund site where the former tannery remained in operation from 1924 to 1984. Throughout the lifetime of the plant, chemicals involved in the leather tanning process were discharged into on-site lagoons.

Harry Bates, News Editor

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On approximately 30 acres on Fairmount Street in Nashua, lays the remnants of the once thriving Granite State Leather company, commonly referred to as Mohawk Tannery, which remained in operation for 60 years. With the site now nearing 35 years since its closing, the graffiti-vandalized foundation is now the only way to establish the location of the plant’s original structure.

The site’s street view is thwarted by chain linked fence and evergreen-colored privacy slabs, leaving the public questioning the progress of the project’s current state. The practices completed throughout the lifetime of the company have left the area contaminated and the public at risk of adverse health effects, with chemical sludge lagoons located in the one hundred year flood zone of the Nashua River.

After the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the project to its National Priorities List in 2000, some asbestos building implements and tanning drums containing hazardous waste were removed, and the area was fenced off to protect the surrounding public. Chemicals from the tanning process remain in seven large “lagoons” throughout the property that contain dioxins, chromium, mercury, lead, arsenic, silver, cadmium, pentachlorophenol, methylene chloride, chlorobenzene, and trichloroethylene; nine of which are labeled “likely, potentially and definite cancer-causing compounds” by the American Cancer Society and EPA. Extensive testing of the site’s soil from 1989 to 2018 conclude that PCBs, asbestos and the chemicals earlier mentioned are present throughout the property, whilst the health of groundwater continues to be questioned despite measurement of water samples. “Mohawk” is currently placed on the Superfund Sites Targeted for Immediate, Intense Action, but has remained without National Priority status and funding.

An aerial photograph of site which was featured in the July 2018 EPA informational packet.

As per the City of Nashua’s decision, the planned cleanup of the site was halted due to the belief that the land is capable of development, and a developer could potentially remediate the site with private funds. In a July 2018 EPA Site Update, rehabilitation options were estimated to cost taxpayers anywhere from 8 to 32.6 million dollars, since the land is without an accountable owner. Large expense estimates have led many members of the public turning to private developers for remediation of the former tannery’s grounds. A petition signed by 120 individuals, sponsored by the North-East-West Nashua Civic Association, calls on the EPA to “revitalize this hazardous site by cleaning up all contaminated and potentially contaminated areas at the Mohawk Tannery Superfund site and its surroundings.”

As New Hampshire Public Radio reported in Nov. 2018, a viable buyer of the Mohawk Tannery property is seeking to redevelop the brownfield land for housing, with a planned 300 multi-story units. The prepared purchaser, Bernard Plante, plans to encapsulate the lagoons after relocating four of the satellite pools into the two largest.

The future rehabilitation of the site remains in question while negotiations continue. The EPA and NH Department of Environment Services’ Project Managers did not reply to our request for comment on the current state or future remediation of the site.

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About the Contributor
Harry Bates, News Editor

Harry Bates ‘20 is ecstatic to be the News Editor for CavChron. He enjoys reporting on relevant affairs and discussing topics left somewhat untouched...

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Mohawk Tannery: A reminder of Nashua’s industrialized past