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Informative Outdoor Exhibit Installed at Eastern Surplus Superfund Site in Meddybemps, Maine

Release Date: 08/23/2006
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – August 23, 2006) – EPA will mark the completion of reports dealing with the archaeological and cultural history of the area at and surrounding the ongoing cleanup of the Eastern Surplus Superfund site in Meddybemps, Maine, with the installation of four enamel signs that depict the area's cultural interest.

Work to install the signs will begin on Aug. 24. The wayside exhibit will commemorate the archaeological site where Native Americans lived and camped for over 8300 years.

The Passamaquoddy Tribe named the site N’tolonapemk, which means “Our Ancestor’s Place”. N’tolonapemk has always been known to the Passamaquoddy, and stories of this important place live today in their oral history and traditional stories. Archaeologists have known about the site since the 1960’s, but it is only recently that the scientific and historic importance of the site has become more widely recognized through archaeological research.

As required by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, EPA’s cleanup plan for the Eastern Surplus Superfund site included an archaeological investigation and subsequent education and outreach. Field work was conducted in 2000 and 2001 by the Archaeology Research Center, University of Maine at Farmington.

The site is centrally located within ancestral Passamaquoddy territory in Washington County, and provided access to the ocean, the St. Croix River, the lakes and waterways of interior Maine and New Brunswick, and to the abundant and varied natural resources found in these different environmental settings. Artifacts found include stone tools, pottery, animal bones and plant remains. Other features identified at the site include hearths, house pits and storage and refuse pits. Members of the Passamaquoddy Tribe were trained to take part in the excavations.

“Tribal people need to be involved in archaeology, so we can have voice…while we look for links to our past.” said Passamaquoddy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Donald Soctomah. “Being the first person to touch an artifact that your ancestor left behind is pretty powerful stuff.”

By integrating the data collected during the excavations with traditional Passamaquoddy stories, archaeologists were able to reconstruct a comprehensive picture of what people did at N’tolonapemk. Fishing was one of the main activities at N’tolonapemk. Many kinds of fish were caught but alewives were especially important. “Meddybemps” in Passamaquoddy means “place to get alewives”. The alewives ran up the Denny’s River in the spring and people probably used nets and baskets to catch large quantities for drying and storing for winter food. It was located along an important travel route which not only afforded opportunities for trade with other communities, but also made it a good place for gatherings and celebrations between tribal members. Other activities included collecting and eating acorns, beechnuts, hazelnuts, blueberries, cherries and elderberries. Trees and plants were also used for medicine, net and rope making, fabrics and baskets. They hunted or trapped bear, caribou, deer, beaver, fox, otter, porcupine, ducks and turtles.

The Eastern Surplus Company operated a salvage yard at this site from the 1940’s to the 1970’s, which resulted in the soil and groundwater becoming heavily contaminated with hazardous materials. In 1985, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection began cleaning up the site. In 1986, EPA took over cleanup activities and in 1996, the site was designated a federal Superfund site. The contaminated soil has since been removed and the levels of contaminants in the groundwater have decreased considerably as a result of treatment with in-situ chemical oxidation. EPA continues to operate a groundwater pump and treat system today.

More information about the site and the people who lived there can be found in A Visit to Our Ancestor’s Place: Meddybemps – N’tolonapemk Village (Donald Soctomah); N’tolonapemk: An Ancient Native American Village on Meddybemps Lake, Maine (ARC/UMF); and the video documentary N’tolonapemk: Our Relative’s Place (Acadia Film Video).

The site remains closed to the public while groundwater remediation continues. However, limited access for tribal or other important local events can be arranged by contacting Karen Lumino, EPA New England, 617-918-1348, or, Rebecca Hewett, Maine DEP, 207-287-2651.

More information: EPA’s efforts to clean up contamination at the Eastern Surplus site (

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