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Gilford official says there is no health threat from coal tar removal

GILFORD — Residents of the Liberty Hill area of town should have no health concerns related to the removal of more than 50,000 tons of coal tar from the grounds of a four-acre site that is being cleaned up by the state and the company that owns the site.

Workers from GEI Consultants, Inc. of Woburn, Mass., began cleaning the soil between 69 and 87 Liberty Hill Road this week, a two-year collaboration between the Department of Environmental Services and the land’s present owner, Liberty Utilities, a power company with operations in 10 states.

Over the next two years, 140,000 tons of contaminated soil will be removed, treated and returned to the property. Officials from GEI have made it clear to the town that there is no public health threat from the operation.

“It’s nothing that anyone has to worry about, health-wise,” said Town Administrator Scott Dunn. “What they’re doing is very safe, they know what they are doing.”

If anything, residents may feel better once the contaminated soil is finally being dealt with, Dunn said.

In 2004, Keyspan, a former owner of the property, discovered that in 1952 about 430 tons of coal tar was dumped on the property as a result of an explosion at a Winnipesaukee River gas plant. Keyspan and National Grid have been working with the state and the town since then on a remediation plan for the property.

Liberty Utilities, which acquired the property from National Grid in 2012, will pay the cost of the cleanup, which is estimated to cost $16 to 17 million, Dunn said.

The excavation will go as deep as 55 feet, and more than 1,700 feet of fencing has been erected around the project.

People can expect to see many trucks in the area in the months ahead.

“The coal tar poses no threat to the public as long as it is removed and cleaned,” Dunn said.

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