Decades-long Exide cleanup project in Fairfield comes to a close

The Exide cleanup operation has restored Mill River.

The Exide cleanup operation has restored Mill River.

Rachel Scharf / Hearst Media Connecticut

FAIRFIELD — After decades of joint efforts, the cleanup of the former Exide Battery plant abutting Mill River at 2190 Post Road has finally been completed.

After ceasing operations on the site in 1981, Exide Group Inc. began removing 30 years of lead contamination under orders from the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP). In 2013, unsatisfied with Exide’s progress, the town of Fairfield and the organization FairPLAN (Fairfielders Protecting Land and Neighborhoods) intervened, calling for improvements to the remediation proposal.

Over the course of nine months of planning and negotiations, FairPLAN, the First Selectman’s Office, the Harbor Management Commission, Shellfish Commission and Conservation Commission worked together to raise the requirements of Exide’s DEEP application to meet Fairfield’s standards and the long-term environmental needs of the area.

Since then, the cleanup operation has dredged more than 20,000 cubic yards of lead-contaminated soil from Mill River. In June, DEEP issued Exide a Certificate of Compliance, officially acknowledging the completion of the decades-long cleanup project.

Town officials involved in the project are pleased to see it finally completed and Mill River restored.

“The cleanup project itself went very smoothly, meeting its remediation goals with comfortable margins,” said Harbor Management Commission chair Jim Harman. “Now that the follow-up monitoring is complete, we look forward to future uses of the site.”

First Selectman Michael Tetreau is thrilled with the project’s outcome, noting that Mill River is cleaner than its been in 50 years. The site, he said, is already beginning to play host to new fish and wildlife, including bald eagles.

Exide is reportedly looking to sell the property to an outside buyer for development. According the Fairfield Assessor’s Office, the 6.22-acre property was appraised at $5,198,700 in 2017.

Tetreau said that he’s looking forward to the property’s development.

“I’m very excited to see this property finished up and be a much bigger contributor to the town economy and the grand list,” Tetreau said.

In a July 11 statement, FairPLAN called upon the property’s would-be buyer and developer to incorporate into its plans for the site a substantial greenway along Mill River, as well as parking and public access to the river for recreation, fishing and small boat use.

“This will benefit the property owner in terms of increased property value and a natural buffer for flood control, and it will ensure the future ecological health of the river for both wildlife and recreational use for all to enjoy now and in the future,” FairPLAN wrote.