College obtains easement to treat contaminated groundwater at Rennie Farm

by Elizabeth Janowski | 4/5/19 2:00am

In an effort to expedite the ongoing cleanup of Rennie Farm, a site where the Dartmouth Medical School disposed of test animal carcasses in the 1960s and 1970s, the College has obtained an easement that will enable the College to treat contaminated groundwater on an 11-acre property abutting the existing treatment site. The easement marks an additional step in a process initiated by the College in 2017 to reduce levels of 1,4-dioxane in the groundwater near Rennie Farm. 

According to director of Dartmouth’s office of environmental health and safety Maureen O’Leary, the College plans to install 15 to 17 groundwater extraction wells on the property, which will capture and pump the contaminated groundwater underneath Rennie Road in Etna and back to the original treatment site. Ten additional groundwater monitoring wells will be installed to ensure that the groundwater is being properly collected.

“[The easement] will allow us to capture a lot more groundwater and treat it more effectively than without the addition of the extraction wells,” director of real estate Ellen Arnold said.

Paul Rydel, an official for the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, said that he is pleased with the steps the College is taking to facilitate the cleanup of the Rennie Farm site.

“[The College] has complied with all the requirements and regulations we’ve laid out for them,” Rydel noted, referencing the College’s formal monitoring program for containing and reducing the levels of 1,4-dioxane in the groundwater near Rennie Farm. 

He added that the College’s current plans involving the property easement were not compulsory.

The easement will grant the College access to the property for the next 15 years, which Arnold hopes will be “an adequate period of time to complete the remediation.”

According to Rydel, the state of New Hampshire stipulates that the level of 1,4 dioxane in the groundwater must be at or below 0.32 micrograms per liter in order for the restoration of the Rennie Farm site to be considered complete. In a report outlining the details of the proposed offsite cleanup, which was released to the public last Friday, the College projects that this level will be attained by 2024.

At the same time, Arnold added that a specific timeframe for the cleanup of the additional property will not be established until the work of extracting and pumping the groundwater begins. 

O’Leary stressed that the new system of wells will not interfere with the landowner who currently lives on the property secured by the easement, as it will be located in a remote wooded area far from the owner’s house. Additionally, she noted that there has been no recorded contamination of the drinking water on the property. 

“Only one of the 140 wells that have been sampled over the past couple years have shown signs of contamination,” O’Leary said. 

Arnold added that Dartmouth’s Value Assurance Program, which offers landowners near the Rennie Farm market value for their properties if they choose to sell them, is currently working with a realtor to decide which of its properties should be put back on the market this spring. Since the start of the program, the College has purchased eight properties near the Rennie Farm site.

Arnold stressed the safety of these properties as the Rennie Farm cleanup continues.

“At this point in time, we’ve had a thorough investigation; we have the required state and federal permits for cleanup; we’ve been able to contain the contamination; and we haven’t seen any expansion of it,” Arnold said. “We feel like we’re in a very strong position to put these properties back out on the market and that people are going to be much more reassured about properties in that area.”