Greenwood might be asked to help clear the way for mill re-opening
Posted July 22--The fate of the former Saunders Brothers dowel mill in Locke Mills – and the more than 50 well paying jobs it provided – may ultimately rest in the hands of Greenwood voters.
In early July the mill was purchased at auction by a group of investors for $450,000. They said at the time that their intention was to reopen it as dowel mill, but they have yet to obtain the necessary financing package.
And that, they said, is where Greenwood could help – not by making a financial commitment to the venture, but by accepting a one-acre parcel of land from the mill site.
Land with a soil pile on it contaminated with PCBs
“I'm willing to see what the voters will say about it. … They're the boss,” Fred Henderson, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said Monday at a meeting of the board, two of the investors, Linda Walbridge, director of the Western Maine Economic Development Council, and Mark R. Hyland, director of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management.
Monday's meeting was strictly informational. Facts and ideas were exchanged and discussed, but no commitments were made, plans formed or strategies shaped.
That PCB contamination (or, more specifically, the possible cost of removing it) has proven a stumbling block in attempts by earlier buyers to obtain the bank financing needed to purchase the mill.
If the town, however, were to accept the property, two purposes would be served: 1) the new owners, would have that obstacle removed; and 2) the town, as a municipality, could apply for a federal “brownfield grant” to cover at least a portion of the cost of removing the contaminated soil.
The DEP's Hyland described the soil in question.
“There's relatively low levels of PCBs in the pile” he said. “There's less than 50 what-we-call 'parts per million,' that would make them a 'hazardous waste.'”
“But we do have concerns that the soil on the site be properly disposed of, and that would mean taking it to a landfill. There's a couple of landfills in Maine that take that kind of waste, so it wouldn't have to go out of state or anything like that. But there would be an expense there to take the soil away.”
Hyland also said that given the nature of the contamination, there was no pressure to remove the soil quickly.
“Because of the type of contaminate we have here, we could do it over time. We don't have to do the whole thing at once. Maybe it would take a couple of years to get the money together. … It's not like gasoline, or something that's contaminating people's water supplies.”
Asked if there were estimates of what it would cost to remove the soil, he replied: “There's been a lot of estimates, but I don't think any of them are very credible.
“My staff that do brownfield projects all the time looked at the pile, looked at the chemical results that they saw, and they said they don't think this is a really expensive site. Having said that, we have not costed it out, and we don't know how big the pile is at this point.”
While the selectmen indicated a willingness to discuss the matter further, Amy Chapman cautioned the group that when it came to federal money being available to deal with the problem, “voters need to hear probabilities, not possibilities.”
Selectman Arnie Jordan put it a little more firmly.
“They're going to want some guarantees,” he said. “They want to know for sure that they're not going to be saddled with the cost in increased taxes.”
Walbridge suggested public meetings, “where we invite the townspeople to come and meet [the investors], and we can explain what we want to do and why we're doing it, and let them ask their own questions, because I'm sure they'll have some.”
And if those questions can't be answered to the satisfaction of Greenwood voters, she said, “I don't expect they would accept it.”