What is a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment? 

A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) includes a review of available historical records; a site walkthrough; and interviews with past and current site owners, state and local officials, and others familiar with the history of the land and building.

Why we needed it: 

87 Church Street was the site of three paper mills (Hanmer & Forbes, Taylor-Atkins, and Burnside Company), the last of which operated until 1977 and the building has since functioned as mixed-use office space. It is a SHPO-registered historic building that is part of the network of mills in East Hartford, contributing to the character and history of the Town.

We know specific chemicals were once used in the papermaking process that may be remaining in the soil and groundwater, including inks, solvents, toxic metals, asbestos, septic waste, and waste oil. Other mills along the Hockanum River managed their facilities in a similar manner, contributing to contamination in the waterways. There are no records of past site clean ups at 87 Church Street.

To create and care for a space that East Hartford residents can safely enjoy and experience the history of the neighborhood and the beauty of the environment, we need to know what harmful substances could be in the building or the soil and create an action plan for next steps.

What was found: 

  • Raw materials used for paper production may have included contaminants like petroleum oils, various chlorinated and aromatic solvents, corrosive acids or bases, bleaching materials, and asbestos fiber.
  • Asbestos was used in the paper making process from 1940 to the late 1970s
  • The power transformers in the old dam and turbine used to generate energy may have left behind the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB).
  • Automotive and construction debris were piled up in the unpaved parking area on the western portion of the site. Several old cars, trucks, a boat, a bus, and trailers, some of which appear to be abandoned, were observed in this area as well.
  • Upriver of the property, other manufacturing facilities have reported violations and spills on record, all of which were corrected and returned to compliance. 

What’s next: 

These conditions require sampling and testing to understand the extent of the contamination. From there, we will know what is needed to clean it up to safely begin construction and revitalization of the site.

A Phase II Environmental Site Assessment is being scheduled, along with an inspection of the dam to obtain our Dam Safety Permit so we can install a hydro-powered turbine to create clean energy for the site that also allows safe passage for migrating wildlife in the Hockanum River.

More questions about the ESA Phase I Report?

Contact Brady Kelsey, Land Revitalization Director, at

Revitalization is not Redevelopment; Land revitalization means reinvesting in the existing community from a place-centered approach with the past in mind. It involves reinforcing social networks, heritage ties, connections to the land, neighborhood services, and local businesses and organizations.