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quotesWhen we got this opportunity, it was a great way to take the skills and knowledge we've gained over the years and apply it to the neighborhoods we live in. I live up the street from here, so it's a personal project for me as well as a demonstration of what we can do to walk the talk.quote-3

Doug McVey, CFO

A Nonotuck Story

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In December 2007, ECS participated in the purchase, through Nonotuck  Mill LLC, of a 150,000 square foot brick and mortar mill building, located  at 296 Nonotuck Street in the beautiful Florence section of Northampton,  MA. ECS’ financial institution, Westfield Bank, provided key financing for  the acquisition and redevelopment of this flourishing location.

The site, which eventually became known as the Nonotuck Mill, is rich  with history. It attracted its first industrialists, who were drawn to the  natural 25-foot elevation drop in the Mill River, in the 1830s. The  hydropower was soon expanded, and a silk plantation and processing  factory was built. But in 1837, a nation-wide credit collapse caused the Mill to fall into bankruptcy. This created the  opportunity for the Northampton Association of Education and Industry (NAEI) to purchase the property.

The NAIE was a utopian society which attempted to deal with some of the moral challenges faced by  an agrarian society that was transforming itself to an industrial powerhouse, focusing heavily on the  themes of education, slavery, fair wages, democracy and religion. Their choice to purchase the  hydro-powered mill and grow silk was both practical and moral. It was a profitable industry which  did not rely on a morally troublesome slave trade to generate those profits. Over the next half dozen  years, the NAIE became an important stop along the Underground Railroad and a nationally significant  center for suffragist discourse, drawing residents and visitors such as Sojourner Truth, William Lloyd  Garrison and Frederick Douglass. 

Cleaning Up

Mostly as the result of 20th century manufacturing techniques, there are  substantial amounts of waste oils and toxins on this property. “The presence of  toxic chemicals is extraordinarily common at these types of sites,” says Doug  McVey, ECS’ Chief Financial Officer. “Post-World War II, we didn’t know how to  manage chemicals. We dumped them into pits  or thought we were allowing them to evaporate  when in fact they were going into the ground.”  Although the documented environmental  releases had achieved regulatory "closure" at  the time of purchase, residual hydraulic oils  contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls  (PCBs) were detected - after the building purchase - at a thickness approaching  several inches beneath the building, resulting in a reportable condition to the  MassDEP.

“Wells were drilled where the underground storage tanks were and where  cleaning agents were stored,” Doug notes, “but nobody bothered to talk to the  maintenance guy! When we interviewed him, he basically said, ‘we shipped oil  into this place every month for the past 20 years, and oil never left the  building.’”

“Oil was stored at one end of the building but used at another,”  Doug explains. “We found the oil when we tested downgradient  of the system used to transport it.”

When ECS and its partners closed on the property, the seller agreed  to purchase environmental insurance as part of the closing process  and ECS was named an additional insured in the policy.  Approximately four months after the purchase, oil began seeping  out of a basement wall as a result of rising groundwater. A claim  was filed, and now with the coverage provided by the insurance  policy, ECS is implementing the remediation plan created by our  talented engineers and construction group to reduce the oil, PCB  and solvent contamination that remains under a portion of the  former machine shop and high bay manufacturing facility.

To date, over 200 gallons of PCB contaminated hydraulic oil have  been removed using a unique multi-port fluid eduction system.  Oil and groundwater are simultaneously “slurped” from the  subsurface under vacuum, and the oil is separated from the  groundwater. The groundwater is treated using activated charcoal  and bentonite clay, and discharged to the sanitary sewer. The  recovered oil is transported off-site for recycling. In the near  future, ECS will be incorporating surfactant flushing to enhance  the oil removal and accelerate the cleanup process. ECS will be  using a nonionic surfactant (BioSolve) to solubilize residual oil  trapped in the soil, and to facilitate the biodegradation of residual  contamination in the subsurface.

Practicing What We Preach

In addition to performing its core services to clean up this Brownfield site,  making it a wonderful and useful part of this old New England community,  ECS has also installed three different ground source geothermal heat pump  systems. The Mill has been utilized as a research and development “test bed”  to perform a first ever, side-by-side comparison of three different geothermal  technologies- 1) a traditional closed loop water system using two  500-foot-deep U-loops to provide five tons of capacity; 2) a direct exchange  (DX) geothermal which circulates refrigerant through five 100-foot copper  taps drilled diagonally into the earth to provide five tons of capacity; and 3)  a Kelix Thermacouple™, an innovative coaxial, turbulent flow heat  exchanger using one 300-foot  borehole to provide five tons of  heating and cooling. All three  systems were completed and  activated in July 2009. These  geothermal systems have been  monitored continuously for nearly  two years using a web enabled  energy logger. A live web feed of the  geothermal systems can be found at

Additionally, plans are currently underway with CAM Solar, LLC of New Jersey to  install photovoltaic (PV) panels on approximately 30,000 square feet of the Mill’s  roofing. The PV panels are expected to generate approximately 2.5 MW of  electricity, and will allow for the purchase of green power for the next 15 years  under a fixed purchase price agreement.

The Fabric of a Town

ECS takes great pride in the jobs that were created in  Northampton as a result of the Mill redevelopment and in  the diverse mix of businesses now comfortably ensconced  under one roof. Approximately $2.8 million in  improvements will have taken place when the Mill is fully  refurbished, with an average job boasting a price tag of  $50,000. Roughly 20 tradespeople have been employed  full-time for two years in various aspects of construction.

“This is such an interesting, eclectic town,” notes Mark  Hellstein, ECS’ President and CEO, “and the businesses  housed in the Mill are truly symbolic of the fabric of  Northampton.”

In addition to the 14 ECS employees who call 296  Nonotuck Street home, a dozen start-ups and established  companies are helping to provide an economic boost for  Northampton. DAX Transportation, specialists in fine art  and antique transportation and storage, has continued to  expand. Our largest tenant, they now occupy more than  17,000 square feet of warehouse and office space. Pave Tile  joined the mix in September 2010, leasing 9,000 square  feet of space. The tenant uses the space to stock reclaimed  tile and new tile that they  process to give it an older  look and feel. Ross Brothers  Antiques also recently  moved in. The Ross family  has been involved in the  antique business for three  generations in  Northampton, and these days, they are focused on boats  and canoes from the 1800s. Service Net, which provides a  wide range of mental health and human services, houses  their corporate staff of about 40 people at the Mill. They  had started out as a small tenant, leasing space for a  conference room for programs, and a space for a group that  converts film to digital media. They eventually grew to love  the charm of the complex, however, and the unique  opportunity to house their records, office space and  program space all at one location in Northampton. United  Republic, located across the third floor hallway from ECS  and Terraclime, is a newer organization working with  citizens who envision a nation where the needs and ideas of  the many can be accommodated. Additional tenants  include a specialty wire company with Hollywood clients; a  company that sells high performance audio and home  theater products; a group dedicated to professional growth,  transformation and evolution within the healthcare system;  a firm that provides low cost, high quality health care; and  a biological education group. Other current uses of the  complex include exercise facilities and a practice arena for a  local roller derby team.

“The bank building across the street from us now has  another restaurant,” Doug says. “The revitalization of the  Mill has led to other local businesses taking a risk and  opening up to accommodate the people in our building.”

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