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$140 Million Cleanup Of Former Upjohn Site Coming Along

Pfizer offers the community a look at what's been done at the former Pharmacia & Upjohn site since it bought the property in 2003.

When pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Inc. acquired Pharmacia Corporation on the former Upjohn Company site at 41 Stiles Lane in 2003, the pharmaceutical giant acquired much more than financial assets.

The site is polluted from more than a century of industrial use, including brick manufacturing and chemical production. Environmental remediation is required to restore the site for human and ecological use.

. The remediation costs will total $140 million. About 17 acres on the property will be designated for commercial or light industrial use, while more than 60 acres will be transformed into a wetland habitat, according to Pfizer’s plans.

Pfizer hosted an open house at the site on Saturday, Sept. 29, giving citizens a chance to see the groundwater treatment plant, in-situ thermal remediation pilot technology, and tour the grounds.

Heidi Boettger, board member of the North Haven Land Trust, said that initially the group didn’t want to have anything to do with Pfizer’s program. Now, Boettger approves of the plans for the site, which borders about four acres of land owned by the North Haven Land Trust.

“I am satisfied with what they intend to do,” said Boettger.

First Selectman Mike Freda said that Pfizer’s corporate responsibility will lead to future commercial development of the site and applauded efforts to take community input into account.

“Through the efforts of Annette and Rico Gattilia and the Citizens’ Advisory Panel, we are here today and we see the wonderful progress,” Freda said.

The Citizens’ Advisory Panel formed in 1995 and has met with Pfizer since 2003, when Pfizer took control of the site, to provide feedback and help shape the remediation plan.

Strict guidelines from the Connecticut DEEP and the USEPA control remediation requirements.

Remediation technology at work

The most highly contaminated underground area has dense nonaqueous phase liquid (DNAPL), a liquid groundwater contaminate that is water insoluble and lies deep underground. Difficult to locate and extract, treatment is called in-situ thermal desorption remediation.

Heated steel pipes are used to heat the DNAPL to vapor 29 feet below the ground. The gases then move through wells to a pilot version of the treatment system. Thermal oxidation breaks down the volatile chemicals to carbon dioxide, water, and chloride. The chloride is then neutralized and the water goes to the treatment plant.

Wouldn’t it be easier to dig up the pollution? No, according to Ralph Baker of TerraTherm, Inc., the Gardner, Massachusetts-based remediation company running the pilot project. Removing the DNAPL would be unsafe for workers, smelly when exposed, and be taken to a hazardous waste dump, instead of being dealt with.

“People aren’t being exposed to chemicals,” said Baker, rather the chemicals are “being extracted and destroyed.”

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