Trustees and Partners Launch Project to Restore Natural Resources Injured at Holyoke Coal Tar Site in Holyoke, Hampden County, Massachusetts

Last edited 09/25/2020

first stone being removed from Bartlett Rod Shop Company Dam in Pelham, Massachusetts, on October 17, 2012
SumCo Eco-Contracting removes the first stone from the Bartlett Rod Shop Company Dam on Amethyst Brook, a tributary of Fort River, on October 17, 2012, in Pelham, Massachusetts. Removal of the stone masonry dam will restore nine miles of upstream riverine habitat to migratory fish benefitting sea lamprey, American eel, brook trout, brown trout and slimy sculpin in the larger Connecticut River watershed. Photo credit: Meagan Racey, FWS.

On October 17, 2012, the federal and State natural resource trustees, together with partner organizations, launched the first of three projects designed to restore natural resources and natural resource services injured by hazardous substances released from the Holyoke Coal Tar Site in Holyoke, Hampden County, Massachusetts. The ceremonial removal of the first stone from the Bartlett Rod Shop Company Dam on Amethyst Brook in Pelham, Massachusetts, marked the first step in a 5-week long project to remove the early 19th century stone dam to restore 9 miles of high quality, upstream habitat to migratory fish in the Fort River watershed.

The natural resource trustees in this case include:

  • Commonwealth of Massachusetts, represented by Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection;
  • U.S. Department of Commerce, represented by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and,
  • U.S. Department of the Interior, represented by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Partners in the dam removal on Amethyst Brook include: Town of Pelham, Town of Amherst, American Rivers, Clean Water Action and FishAmerica Foundation.

Holyoke Gas Works, which operated on the west bank of Connecticut River in Holyoke, Massachusetts, for 100 years -- from 1852 to 1952 -- produced gas from coal and petroleum. At least 120,000 gallons of coal tar wastes were released from the plant to the Connecticut River between 1905 and 1952. These coal tar wastes contaminated adjacent soils, groundwater, sediments and surface waters causing injuries to fish, including federally-endangered shortnose sturgeon, freshwater mussels and aquatic habitats.

The trustees settled natural resource damage claims at the Site with Holyoke Water Power Co. and City of Holyoke Gas & Electric Department, successors to the responsible parties, in a November 2004 Consent Decree. This settlement provided $345,000 for natural resource restoration project planning, implementation and administration. With accrued interest, these restoration funds have grown to $395,000.

In May 2012, the trustees released a publicly-reviewed Final Restoration Plan describing the actions selected to restore injured natural resources and natural resource services. Removal of the now-defunct Bartlett Rod Shop Company Dam is one of the three preferred alternative restoration projects described in the Final Restoration Plan. The trustees allocated $158,091 of restoration funds to the cost of the dam demolition project. 

A remnant portion of the dam will be left intact to commemorate the dam’s 192-year history.

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