Written by Matt Mauney | Scientifically Reviewed By Arti Shukla, Ph.D. | Edited By Walter Pacheco | Last Update: September 29, 2023

Quick Facts About Asbestos in New Hampshire
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Throughout the 1950s, New Hampshire was a manufacturing state with textiles, shoe manufacturing and paper mills heavily driving the economy. Some of these factories, like Warwick Mills in New Ipswich and the Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington, are still in operation today, but most of the state’s industrial operations shut down by the late 1980s.

During their prime years, these industries were sources of asbestos exposure for the New Hampshire residents who were employed at the factories. Decades after being a part of America’s asbestos problem, however, New Hampshire may become part of the solution.

In 2017, a company charged with cleaning up millions of tons of asbestos waste at an abandoned mine in neighboring Vermont proposed the construction of a state-of-the-art processing plant in Groveton, New Hampshire. The site of a former paper mill in Groveton would be ideal for the facility, thanks to its pre-existing infrastructure.

Once operational, the new processing plant could convert the hazardous asbestos from Vermont into magnesium oxide, hydroxides and other chemicals. The company estimates the cost of the multi-year New Hampshire project at $200 million.

New Hampshire’s Occupations and Areas at Risk

Textile mills, naval yards and power plants were major asbestos hotspots in New Hampshire. Shipyards were built with asbestos and the fibers were frequently used in military operations. Power plants used asbestos to insulate their pipes and fireproof their boilers. Textile factories used asbestos in a variety of applications such as fabrics for consumer goods and insulation in the mills.

Job Sites with Known Asbestos Exposure:

  • Mt. Carberry Landfill
  • Sanco Landfill
  • Turnkey Landfill
  • Hooksett County Landfill
  • Lebanon Municipal Landfill
  • Exeter Town Dump
  • Nashua Sanitary Landfill
  • Town of Merrimack Landfill
  • Waste Wood Processing Plant
  • Jaffrey Town Landfill
  • Concord N.H. Landfill
  • Charles Poletti Power Project
  • Homestead Industries
  • Malden Mills Industries
  • Troy Mills
  • Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington
  • Merrimack Power Plant on the Merrimack River
  • Johns-Manville plant in Nashua
  • Dorr Woolen Company
  • L.W. Packard Company
  • Star Specialty Knitting
  • Warwick Mills in New Ipswich
  • Portsmouth Naval Yard
  • Seabrook Station, 10 miles south of Portsmouth

Despite efforts to remediate asbestos, exposure remains a risk for New Hampshire residents throughout the state. For example, the state’s Department of Environmental Services filed a lawsuit against an asbestos contractor in January 2021 for improperly disposing of asbestos-containing materials from a demolished building in Claremont, New Hampshire. The contractor failed to clean up asbestos-contaminated debris following the demolition for nearly a year.

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New Hampshire’s Textile Industry

New Hampshire’s thriving textile industry used asbestos to insulate the fabric-weaving machinery. Additionally, many of New Hampshire’s mills actually wove protective garments from asbestos since its lightweight nature made it a popular choice for items such as oven mitts and racecar gear. As textile mill workers spun asbestos threads into fabric or operated and repaired standard mill machinery, they ran the risk of releasing the fibers into the air where they were easily inhaled. Additionally, these mills were often poorly ventilated, so airborne asbestos circulated around the breathing spaces for extended periods of time.

Textile mills were also commonly built with insulating asbestos in the walls, tiles and flooring. When these textile mills were shut down, thousands of cubic tons of asbestos-tainted waste products were left behind. These were often dumped into rivers or given away as free landfill to local property owners, putting many people who never worked at textile plants at risk for developing mesothelioma.

New Hampshire Power Plants

In the 1970s, Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH), responsible for providing electrical service to 500,000 households, retrofitted the old Manchester Steam Plant and turned it into a coal-fired power plant called the Merrimack Power Plant. Combustion turbines generate a lot of heat and asbestos was used to insulate them. The older building in which the Merrimack Power Plant was housed had also made liberal use of asbestos as a construction material.

PSNH opened other power generating facilities as well including Seabrook Station, a nuclear power plant. Building commenced in 1976 when asbestos was still commonly used as an insulation material. As a result, many of the operators and repairmen who serviced the nuclear plant may have been exposed to asbestos.

Johns Manville Nashua Manufacturing Plant

Johns-Manville Corporation, one of the nation’s largest producers of insulation and roofing, operated a plant in a heavily populated area of Nashua, New Hampshire. The four acre facility included two separate plants that began producing asbestos tiles and asbestos plates in 1900. The facility was shut down and sold in 1985, but until then, the company exposed workers to asbestos fibers at the plants. Waste from the Nashua plant was distributed to local property owners, who used the asbestos remnants in their homes and communities.

Although the site is now closed, trespassing has been a significant issue throughout the 1990s, which prompted the city of Nashua to evaluate the condition of the decrepit buildings. After determining that significant amounts of asbestos still remained in the former Johns-Manville facility, the site was condemned by the Environmental Protection Agency in April 1995 and demolished in September 1996.

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is located in Maine, but the facility is located across the river from the city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The shipyard employed many residents of New Hampshire, who were responsible for building and repairing U.S. Navy Vessels from the early 1800s. Shipyards were one of the most high-risk locations for asbestos exposure in the twentieth century, where asbestos-containing materials were commonly used as insulation for the boats and shipbuilding machinery.

In 1993, the site, which encompassed 376 buildings over 278 acres, was found to contain asbestos insulation among other contaminants. More than 30 acres of Portsmouth Naval Yard property was storing hazardous waste. The final stages of cleanup efforts were completed in 2003.

Other Exposure Sites in New Hampshire

Several industrial facilities in New Hampshire have been found to be home to asbestos.

Recent investigations have revealed the fibers in the following buildings:

  • Holman Athletic Stadium and surrounding land
  • Majestic Heights (residential development)
  • New England Telephone Company
  • New Hampshire Plating Company
  • Suncook Village Residential Community

A.C. Lawrence Leather and Davidson Property were both named asbestos-contaminated Superfund sites by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Cleanup measures for both of these sites were completed in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

Asbestos Regulations in New Hampshire

The EPA has authority to implement and enforce federal asbestos laws in New Hampshire. These laws come from the Asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) regulations, which specify how workers must manage asbestos materials while renovating or demolishing buildings.

In addition to federal regulations, states and towns can enact their own asbestos laws as long as they are as strict as the government’s laws. In New Hampshire, Title X of the Public Health Services Act lists state-specific laws for a wide range of public health issues, including the management of asbestos. Additional asbestos requirements are found in the New Hampshire Code of Administrative Rules.

Requirements for Renovation and Demolition Projects

Before any renovation or demolition project, the building owner must hire an accredited professional to inspect for asbestos. If asbestos is found, it must be removed and disposed of according to state and federal asbestos regulations. Residents can contact the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services for lists of certified asbestos inspectors, licensed abatement contractors and approved asbestos disposal facilities.

New Hampshire requires facility owners to give written notification to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and the local health officer at least 10 working days before starting any activities related to building demolition. This applies to all demolition projects, even when asbestos is not present.

Written notification is also required at least 10 days before renovation projects that will remove asbestos, but only if the abatement involves 10 linear feet or 25 square feet of asbestos-containing materials. If there is less than this much asbestos, or there is no asbestos to be disturbed by renovation, notification isn’t required.

Fines for Asbestos Violations

Failure to meet state and federal requirements for asbestos work could result in serious fines, criminal charges and jail time. Violators can be charged with a class B felony if they knowingly and willfully break New Hampshire asbestos laws or violate the terms of an asbestos license or certificate. In addition to imprisonment, violators can be fined up to $25,000, with each day of violation counting as a separate offense.

In 2012, the state of New Hampshire issued a $110,000 penalty to a group of defendants including several landowners and a contractor who illegally demolished an asbestos-containing building. The contractor did not give proper notice before demolishing the building, which contained approximately 10,000 square feet of asbestos roofing and floor tile.

That same year, Walter Jensen and his company Summer and Winter Construction were fined $18,000 for unlawfully removing asbestos from two residential construction sites in Concord in 2005 and 2006. Two years earlier, a contractor was fined $18,500 for demolishing asbestos-containing buildings in Bath, Whitefield and Hebron without inspecting for asbestos or notifying the state.

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