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After decades of pollution, a sign of progress in Stratford: A creek is no longer contaminated

David Cash, New England Regional Administrator, EPA, along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal removing a sign advising passerby from entering the creek due to chemical contamination in Stratford, Connecticut on May 13, 2024. The creek is now deemed remediated even as other parts of the former Raymark industrial site continue to be cleaned up in a project that will last at least another four years.
Eddy Martinez
/
Connecticut Public
David Cash, New England Regional Administrator, EPA, along with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal removing a sign advising passerby from entering the creek due to chemical contamination in Stratford, Connecticut, on May 13, 2024. The creek is now deemed remediated even as other parts of the former Raymark industrial site continue to be cleaned up in a project that will last at least another four years.

Ferry Creek flows under Ferry Boulevard in Stratford, lined with a biodegradable material made from coconut fiber used to mitigate erosion.

It lines the length of the creek, the sides barren save for some signs of plant growth, the color clashing with the rocks and mud that otherwise line up to the water.

It took years to get to this point.

“This current phase of work consists of approximately 30 properties of which we've cleaned up 28 of 30 properties, including ferry creek where we're standing right now,” said Michael Looney, a project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

It’s taken around four years of work to get the creek cleared of chemical contamination, the result of a former automotive parts factory dumping industrial waste. But the signs of plant growth are a welcome sign, as clean-up efforts continue at the former Raymark site.

More than 100,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil has been removed. It’s being dumped at a former Raymark dumping ground, but lined with protective materials to avoid seeping into the soil.

More work needs to be done, even as U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and David Cash, New England regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ceremonially took down a sign warning people to stay away from the creek.

But federal officials are highlighting the successes: Transforming a site once littered with brake pads and other industrial waste.

Raymark operated at the site from the early 1900s until 1989. The land in 1995 became a Superfund site, allowing the EPA to begin clean-up efforts.

EPA remediation manager Jim DiLorenzo said the town of Stratford will end up with the property to do as it sees fit.

“It's being consolidated and then at the end of the day, it'll be under a protective cap,” DiLorenzo said. “And this property will be turned back over to the town of Stratford for commercial development.”

DiLorenzo said remediation efforts may take another four to five years, but now passerby can walk by the creek without warnings of potential health hazards.

Looney said he can’t speak much about the impact to wildlife, but he said animals are beginning to return.

“Since we've remediated, we've seen freshwater fish, minnows in the stream,” he said. “We've seen more bird life.”