top of page

The Hanover Fireworks Site: Long-Standing Campaign for Remediation



The Hanover Fireworks Site, also known as the National Fireworks Site, has been a significant concern for Hanover and Hanson, Massachusetts, communities since the early 1980s. The site operated from 1890 to 1977, and at its peak, it employed over 1,000 people. It covers 240 acres and has been contaminated with a range of toxic substances, including lead, mercury, and organic solvents generated in manufacturing fireworks and military munitions. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has been overseeing the cleanup process since 1995, working with the responsible parties - Kerr-McGee Chemical Corporation, National Coating Corporation, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


The site's operations have significantly contaminated the soil, sediment, groundwater, and wetlands. These toxins cause various health problems, including cancer, neurological damage, and reproductive issues. The Hanover Fireworks Site contains numerous contaminants such as vinyl chloride, lead, arsenic, benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE), mercury, dioxins, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, methylene chloride, and uranium. These substances have been detected in multiple studies conducted by the MassDEP, US Army Corps of Engineers, and EPA.




Vinyl chloride is a highly toxic chemical manufacturing PVC plastics, rubber, and other materials. It is also a known carcinogen and has been linked to a range of health problems, including liver damage, nerve damage, and brain cancer. There are few known causes of brain cancer. However, there are confirmed studies that VC does cause brain tumors. Studies have found elevated levels of vinyl chloride in soil and groundwater samples taken from the Hanover Fireworks Site. A study conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) in 2003 found that the levels of vinyl chloride in groundwater samples exceeded the Massachusetts Drinking Water Standards. Another study conducted by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 2005 found that the levels of vinyl chloride at the site exceeded the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's (MassDEP) groundwater quality standard for drinking water.


2. Lead


Lead is a highly toxic metal that can cause damage to the nervous system, brain, and other organs. It is commonly found in old paint, pipes, and batteries. The Hanover Fireworks Site has been found to contain lead contamination. A study conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) in 2003 found that the lead levels in soil samples taken from the site exceeded the Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP) Method 1 Soil Standards. Another study conducted by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 2005 found that the lead levels at the site exceeded the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's (MassDEP) groundwater quality standard for drinking water.



Arsenic is a highly toxic metal found in some pesticides, wood preservatives, and other products. It can cause a range of health problems, including skin lesions, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. The Hanover Fireworks Site has been found to contain arsenic contamination. A study conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) in 2003 found that the levels of arsenic in groundwater samples taken from the site exceeded the Massachusetts Drinking Water Standards.



Benzene is a highly toxic chemical used in manufacturing plastics, resins, synthetic fibers, and other products. It is also a known carcinogen and can cause a range of health problems, including leukemia and other cancers. The Hanover Fireworks Site has been found to contain benzene contamination. A study conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) in 2003 found that the levels of benzene in groundwater samples taken from the site exceeded the Massachusetts Drinking Water Standards.

.


Trichloroethylene is a highly toxic chemical used to manufacture refrigerants, solvents, and other products. It is also a known carcinogen and can cause a range of health problems, including liver and kidney damage. The Hanover Fireworks Site has been found to contain TCE contamination. A study conducted by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 2005 found that the levels of TCE at the site exceeded the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's (MassDEP) groundwater quality standard for drinking water.



Mercury is a highly toxic metal that can cause damage to the nervous system, brain, and other organs. It is commonly found in some batteries, thermometers, and other products. The Hanover Fireworks Site has been found to contain mercury contamination. A study conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) in 2003 found that the levels of mercury in soil samples taken from the site exceeded the Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP) Method 1 Soil Standards.



Dioxins are a group of highly toxic chemicals that are produced by burning certain materials, such as plastics and wood. They have been linked to various health problems, including cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, and immune system damage. The Hanover Fireworks Site has been found to contain dioxin contamination. A study conducted by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 2005 found that the levels of dioxin at the site exceeded the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's (MassDEP) groundwater quality standard for drinking water.



Toluene is a highly toxic chemical used in manufacturing paints, adhesives, and other products. It can cause various health problems, including neurological damage, respiratory problems, and skin irritation. The Hanover Fireworks Site has been found to contain toluene contamination. A study conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) in 2003 found that the levels of toluene in groundwater samples taken from the site exceeded the Massachusetts Drinking Water Standards.



Ethylbenzene is a highly toxic chemical used in manufacturing plastics, synthetic fibers, and other products. It can cause a range of health problems, including neurological damage and respiratory problems. The Hanover Fireworks Site has been found to contain ethylbenzene contamination. A study conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) in 2003 found that the levels of ethylbenzene in groundwater samples taken from the site exceeded the Massachusetts Drinking Water Standards.


10. Xylene


Xylene is a highly toxic chemical used in manufacturing paints, coatings, and other products. It can cause a range of health problems, including neurological damage, respiratory problems, and skin irritation. The Hanover Fireworks Site has been found to contain xylene contamination. A study conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) in 2003 found that the levels of xylene in groundwater samples taken from the site exceeded the Massachusetts Drinking Water Standards.



Methylene chloride is a highly toxic chemical used in manufacturing paints, adhesives, and other products. It can cause a range of health problems, including neurological damage and respiratory problems. The Hanover Fireworks Site has been found to contain methylene chloride contamination. A study conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) in 2003 found that the levels of methylene chloride in groundwater samples taken from the site exceeded the Massachusetts Drinking Water Standards.



Recent investigations into the site have found a 55-Gallon Drum with low levels of radioactivity but no detectable radiation above background levels that would pose a risk of public exposure. The soil around the drum was sampled and sent to a laboratory for identification. A plan for excavation, removal, and disposal of the material will be developed by Tetra Tech, with oversight by MassDEP and technical assistance by MDPH Radiation Control Program. Studies have found uranium to be a toxic substance that can cause chemical and radiological toxicity. Uranium exposure can lead to kidney damage, which is the main chemical effect associated with exposure to uranium and its compounds. The extent of damage from exposure depends on the solubility of the compound and the route of exposure. Soluble compounds primarily cause chemical toxicity, while insoluble compounds increase cancer risk from internal exposure to radioactivity. Occupational overexposure to uranium has been found to cause kidney damage, but it may heal after the exposure ends.


The studies listed below emphasize the considerable contamination at the Hanover Fireworks Site and the potential risks to human health and the environment. Exposure to these toxins can lead to various health issues, such as cancer, liver damage, nerve damage, and cardiovascular disease. Continuous monitoring and remediation efforts must be carried out to ensure all contaminants are removed from the site and that it is safe for both human health and the environment.


  • In 2003, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) conducted a study that discovered high levels of vinyl chloride, lead, arsenic, and benzene in soil and groundwater samples taken from the Hanover Fireworks Site.

  • The US Army Corps of Engineers performed a study in 2005, which revealed elevated levels of vinyl chloride, lead, and trichloroethylene at the site, surpassing Massachusetts drinking water standards [2].

  • In 2012, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assessed the Hanover Fireworks Site and determined it might be eligible for Superfund status due to the presence of hazardous substances, such as vinyl chloride, lead, and benzene.

  • The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) conducted further testing in 2013 and 2014, identifying high levels of vinyl chloride, lead, and arsenic in groundwater samples taken from the site.


It is crucial to note that a study conducted during the most recent 10-year period of 2006-2015 found statistical elevations in the incidence of invasive or benign brain and ONS cancers in three census tracts in Hanover and Pembroke.


  • During the most recent 10-year period of 2006-2015, statistical elevations occurred in the incidence of invasive or benign brain and ONS cancers in 3 census tracts in Hanover and Pembroke.


In 2002, the Hanover Fireworks Site was proposed for inclusion on the National Priorities List as a Superfund site, which comprises the most polluted sites in the United States, requiring long-term remedial action. The Superfund program, managed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), aims to clean up contaminated sites and protect public health and the environment.


However, the site was not added to the list due to its stigma.


The slow progress of the cleanup efforts at the site is worrying, as the longer, the contamination persists, the greater the potential harm to public health and the environment. Designating the site as a Superfund location would supply the essential resources and supervision to ensure efficient and effective cleanup efforts.


Despite ongoing cleanup activities at the Hanover Fireworks Site, it remains crucial to designate the site as a superfund location. The contamination's severity and potential impact on public health and the environment necessitate the highest attention and resources.


While current cleanup efforts are moving in the right direction, they might not be sufficient to address the site's contamination fully. Assigning the Hanover Fireworks Site as a Superfund location would offer extra resources and oversight to guarantee the site is entirely remediated to the highest possible standard. The Superfund program provides funding for cleaning up highly contaminated sites and ensures responsible parties are held accountable for cleanup costs. Additionally, it involves the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the cleanup process, contributing further technical expertise and oversight to ensure optimal remediation.


In addition to the potential connection with cancer, the contamination at the Hanover Fireworks Site presents a danger to the adjacent ecosystem. The presence of hazardous substances like lead, arsenic, and PAHs in nearby streams and ponds can substantially affect aquatic life and disrupt the delicate equilibrium of the ecosystem.


Research on wildlife at the Hanover Fireworks Site has revealed signs of environmental harm. One study by the EPA discovered that the site is a significant source of mercury in the surrounding ecosystem. Mercury is known to cause neurological damage in wildlife and can contaminate the food chain. Other research has indicated that the site has affected nearby wetlands, which provide essential habitats for local wildlife.


The contamination at the Hanover Fireworks Site poses a considerable threat to both public health and the environment. While the state denies any correlation between the contamination and the incidence of brain tumors, the stories of those affected cannot be overlooked. The designation of the site as a Superfund location is an essential step towards fully remediating the area and guaranteeing the safety of the surrounding community. It is of utmost importance to hold the responsible parties accountable for the cleanup costs and ensure that the remediation process is carried out transparently and efficiently.

In conclusion, the Hanover Fireworks Site has been a significant cause for concern due to the extent of contamination and its potential impact on public health and the environment. The site's contamination, which includes hazardous substances such as lead, arsenic, and PAHs, poses a risk to human health and threatens the surrounding ecosystem and wildlife. The experiences of those affected by brain tumors in the vicinity of the site underscore the importance of further investigation into potential links between the contamination and adverse health outcomes.













Comments


bottom of page