August 24, 2022
DURHAM, CONN. (Aug. 24, 2022) – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash joined Senator Richard Blumenthal, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New England Commander and District Engineer Colonel John A. Atilano II, Connecticut Department of Public Health (CT DPH) Commissioner Manisha Juthani, MD and representatives from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP), as well as the City of Middletown’s Mayor Ben Florsheim and representatives from the Town of Durham, to celebrate the completion of nearly 6 miles of waterline that provide a safe, sustainable drinking water supply to properties impacted by the contamination at the Durham Meadows Superfund Site. This project is an example of successful local, state and federal partnership working towards the common goal of addressing the contamination at a Superfund site to protect human health and the environment, while increasing the potential for economic development.
“Today exemplifies the power and potential of environmental partnership,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash. “After decades of hard work from local, state, and federal partners, as well as additional funding provided through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we ensured that we all delivered on our promise to Durham. The Town of Durham now has a sustainable, expandable, and, more importantly, safe source of water.”
The nearly 6-mile waterline, that runs from the City of Middletown to the Town of Durham, and a 790,000-gallon water storage tank were installed in response to widespread contamination from industrial activities in Durham Center. The system includes new connections for 119 properties, including Coginchaug High School and Strong Middle School, and provides clean water for the 84 existing customers of the Durham Center Water Service, including the historic Durham Agricultural Fairground.
Waterline construction activities began in September 2019 and Durham was successfully delivered clean, safe drinking water from the City of Middletown on July 18, 2022. A portion of the groundwater and soil cleanup is still ongoing, as well as with some remaining construction work, but EPA expects these aspects of the cleanup to be fully complete in 2023.
The new system has the capacity to support expansion, which will allow the Town of Durham to address other areas of contamination, including the areas that will be targeted by the additional $3,412,455 in Congressional Earmark funding that will be provided to the Town of Durham and managed through EPA’s water program. This funding will provide Durham greater opportunity for economic development now that a reliable source of water is available.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also invested $37.3 million to fund Superfund cleanups in Connecticut. Of that $37.3 million, the Durham Meadows Superfund Site received $4.3 million to address the legacy groundwater and soil contamination at the site.
What They Are Saying
“Today is a momentous day for the people of Durham. Clean safe drinking water is an absolute necessity and for years, the people of Durham Center had to rely on heavy duty filters or bottled water to drink and cook. It is truly wonderful to see a final resolution to a decades long legal battle and environmental cleanup. I thank all of our local, state and federal partners for seeing this project through and providing real relief to the community,” said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal.
“Local, state, and federal agencies have worked for decades to ensure the people of Durham and Middletown have access to safe, sustainable drinking water, and the finish line is finally in sight. The completion of this project will not only bring clean drinking water to the community, but also create new opportunities for economic growth,” said U.S. Senator Chris Murphy.
“For decades, the residents and businesses of downtown Durham have struggled with contaminated groundwater issues stemming from the Durham Meadows Superfund Site,” said U.S. Congresswoman and House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro. “I am proud to work with the Town of Durham, the City of Middletown, as well as federal and state agencies to address the critical need of bringing safe, clean drinking water to these homes and businesses. This collaborative effort ensures much needed infrastructure improvements to residents in Middletown – this is about protecting the health and wellbeing of our community. The Durham Waterline Project allows the Town of Durham to extend public water to homes and businesses outside of the Durham Meadows footprint, a project that I supported with more than $3 million in community project funding in this year’s federal spending bill.”
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and our technical experts are honored to collaborate with the EPA, Connecticut DEEP, and all the other state and local stakeholders, through countless hours of partnership and hard work, to deliver clean drinking water to the people of Durham, Connecticut,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New England Commander and District Engineer Colonel John A. Atilano II. “The EPA and USACE have a very long and successful history together when it comes to environmental cleanup. We appreciate that the EPA entrusts us with projects like Durham Meadows because they know we have experienced professionals with the expertise to manage large projects. I want to thank our Durham Meadows Superfund Team for all of their outstanding work on this important project from start to finish, and we look forward to our continued partnership with EPA on our other ongoing projects.”
“The Connecticut Department of Public Health is delighted to have been part of the multi-jurisdictional team whose efforts culminated in safe water flowing from Middletown to Durham,” said Connecticut Department of Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani, MD. “Years ago, movement of the contamination plume in Durham kickstarted concerted efforts to look for a bigger solution. The interconnection, championed by leaders of both towns, is an example of the achievement that remarkable cooperation can bring. It resulted in the successful completion of this complex project involving a large tank and over 5.5 miles of water mains. This project provides public health benefits that will outlast all of us.”
“Ensuring that everyone in Connecticut has a safe supply of drinking water is a critical mission of this agency,” Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes said. “We are so pleased to celebrate with the residents, USEPA, the Department of Public Health, the Town of Durham, and the City of Middletown the completion of the public water connections to all of those who have been impacted by historical pollution releases.”
“Congratulations to the Federal, State and Local team for bringing clean drinking water to Durham, solving a decades-old problem of contamination,” said Town of Durham Selectman George Eames. “This project improves the health and wellness of our residents and increases property values. Many thanks to the many people who have worked on our behalf.”
“The City of Middletown is incredibly proud of our role in this groundbreaking project, which has demonstrated that cooperative regional solutions are often the best approach to solving local problems. While Durham will benefit from clean Middletown water, our whole state and region benefits from the model of partnership that has been established here, and when it comes to collaboration with EPA and our neighboring towns on projects that benefit our residents, I know this is just the beginning,” said City of Middletown Mayor Ben Florsheim.
The Durham Meadows Superfund was added to EPA’s National Priorities List for Superfund Sites in 1989 and is located in the Town of Durham, Conn. The site is generally centered around Durham Manufacturing Company (DMC), a currently operating manufacturing facility at 201 Main Street, and the former location of Merriam Manufacturing Company (MMC) at 281 Main Street. The outer limits of the site are defined by the surrounding 100-acre area groundwater contamination. The groundwater in Durham Center was contaminated by the release of chemicals, primarily trichloroethene (TCE) and 1,4-dioxane, into the soil and groundwater at two manufacturing facilities due to past disposal of wastewater in lagoons or sludge drying beds, spills at both facilities, and inadequate drum storage practices. Groundwater contamination was first detected at the Frank Ward Strong Middle School in 1970. Additional investigation revealed widespread contamination in Durham Center, leading to the installation of carbon filters at the properties with contaminated wells. 12 properties were contaminated with 1,4-dioxane that could not be effectively removed by carbon filters and therefore relied on bottled water for potable uses.
EPA identified the need for a new water supply for the contaminated areas in Durham in a 2005 Record of Decision (ROD), which also included cleanup actions to remove contaminated soil from the two contaminated source areas and the need for an area-wide groundwater use restriction. EPA then, in accordance with the polluter-pays concept, implemented enforcement actions that resulted in settlement agreements with both of the companies designated as potentially responsible parties (PRPs) of the contamination by the end of 2013. During that same period, EPA was able to implement the cleanup of the former Merriam Manufacturing Company (one of the PRPs), require a sub-slab depressurization system for the Durham Manufacturing Company (the other PRP), and work closely with its local and state partners to confirm that the neighboring City of Middletown could provide the water supply required to support Durham. EPA developed the design for the cleanup at the Durham Manufacturing Company from 2007 to 2016. In 2015, the Town of Durham passed the “Groundwater Management Zone Ordinance of the Town of Durham” that restricted groundwater use for the area surrounding the Durham Meadows Superfund Site and required connection to the new water system.
Once the agreement with the City of Middletown was established, and EPA confirmed that the city could provide the water supply to support Durham, EPA then focused on the design for new water system to increase the capacity. The new water system design was completed in 2018. Upon the completion of the design, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, hired by EPA, procured a contract to perform the construction of the new water system.
Durham Meadows Superfund Site
Cleaning Up in New England
EPA’s Superfund Program