Brewer News

Brewer awarded $400,000 for mill site cleanup

4.08.2008 – The brownfields grant funds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded the city Monday will nearly finish off the final touches of an intensive cleanup of the former Eastern Fine Paper Co. mill site, city officials say.

“With this additional $400,000 we’ll be able to come close to completing the remediation of the site,” D’arcy Main-Boyington, Brewer economic development director, said Monday afternoon.

The 41-acre industrial site, which for the past century has been home to papermaking, was left with a half-buried hazardous waste dump and other identified environmental dangers when the mill closed in January 2004.

Since that date, the city has worked diligently to find cleanup funds so the riverfront property could be transformed back into a community asset, she said.

The South Brewer site’s contamination “was by far the biggest obstacle we had, as it is with any mill site anywhere,” Main-Boyington said.

Nearly $2 million in cleanup grants and loans were provided by the EPA’s brownfields program.

Brownfields are abandoned, idled or underused industrial or commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by environmental contamination.

The goal of the brownfields program is to make sure chemicals and other hazards are cleaned up so the facility does not pose a threat to the environment or nearby homes.

The city took over ownership of the mill property months after it closed in 2004 and formed South Brewer Redevelopment LLC to assume responsibility for owning and redeveloping the site.

“In 2007, SBR was awarded $200,000 in a cleanup grant that was used specifically to clean up the site,” Main-Boyington said. “[And] this year, the $400,000 grant is to SBR to continue remediation on the site.”

The EPA also provided the city of Brewer with a $350,000 brownfields assessment grant in May 2005, and in 2006 granted the city another $1 million in revolving loan funds.

“EPA’s brownfields program has had incredible success helping New England communities revitalize overlooked and abandoned properties,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England regional office. “This money will help provide skilled jobs, a cleaner environment, and more green space for Maine.”

Without the EPA grant and low-interest loans to clean up the industrial waste at the site, it would have been unlikely that any developer would have interest in the site.

Cianbro Corp. of Pittsfield now is investing millions into changing the site into the Eastern Manufacturing Facility that will construct building modules, or prefabricated and prewired building structures at the site. The manufacturing facility now has more than 100 people working on-site and eventually will employ more than 500 skilled laborers building the modules.

Brewer is one of nine communities and organizations across Maine to be awarded EPA funding this year to help revitalize former industrial and commercial sites.

“We are pleased that the EPA has designated these sites throughout Maine as recipients of the vital federal funding for brownfield cleanups,” a joint statement from U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins states. “These investments will provide economic opportunities in our State, while protecting the integrity of the environment for future generations.”

The EPA funding list for Maine includes:

* $400,000 to Southern Maine Regional Planning Commission to assess communitywide hazardous substances and petroleum.

* $200,000 to the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments to assess communitywide hazardous substances.

* $200,000 to the Hancock County Planning Commission to assess communitywide hazardous substances.

* $200,000 to the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments to assess communitywide hazardous substances.

* $200,000 to Sanford to assess communitywide hazardous substances.

* $200,000 to Lewiston to clean up the former Androscoggin Mill No. 8 site.

* $200,000 to Oakland to clean up the Cascade Woolen Mill site.

* $40,000 to Pittsfield to clean up the Eelweir Road site.

EPA officials will be at Brewer City Hall at 1 p.m. Tuesday for a press conference to announce the brownfields awards to the nine communities and organization. The Brewer mayor and Cianbro officials also are expected to attend.

A copyright article from the Bangor Daily News, Tuesday, April 8, 2008.