HANCOCK — Clean-up efforts at the site of the former tannery in Hancock, located on Route 1 near Tideway Market, continue with the near completion of the site’s asbestos remediation.
The efforts have continued despite some initial difficulty accessing grant funding for the project. The money “was locked up for a period of time,” due to a legal case, George Colwell, chairman of the town’s Board of Selectmen, told The American.
He explained that Sheri Walsh, 56, of Newport had access to the grant funding “to pay for services rendered.” Walsh, who formerly worked for the Hancock County Planning Commission, pleaded guilty on Dec. 11, 2020, in federal court to wire fraud and federal government program theft.
Despite the funding hiccup, the asbestos remediation was performed by Rich Campbell of Campbell Environmental Group, an environmental consulting firm based in Falmouth, Colwell said.
The firm has been “performing investigations and successful remediation projects on sites in Maine and New Hampshire since 1988,” according to its website.
The remediation, which included work on the boiler room and piping inside the site’s 71,370-square-foot building, is “physically done,” said Colwell.
Next, an inspection will be completed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to verify to the town and to Campbell Environmental Group that “what [Campbell] has done is up to standard,” Colwell explained.
Once the work is verified and reports are distributed to the town, the asbestos remediation can be closed and payment to Campbell Environmental Group will be made, Colwell said.
Colwell estimates that about half of $400,000 in grant funding designated for the project has been spent, with much of the money going to the asbestos remediation and labor and consulting fees.
According to a Jan. 31, 2020, article in The American, cleanup efforts to address the site’s contaminated building and outdoor lagoons began in September 2018, when the EPA awarded the town $700,000 to remove debris and contaminants from inside the tannery building.
That project cost the town $204,193, with the remainder of the funds required to go back to the EPA. Following the project, the town was eventually approved for $400,000 in grant funding from the EPA’s Brownfields Program to be used to address the site’s contaminants and hazardous pollutants.
Per grant conditions, the town has to “belly up to the bar” with $80,000, said Colwell. This funding can come from in-kind services.
“Half of the $80,000 has been raised and appropriated,” Colwell said, with plans to appropriate the remaining $40,000 at the town’s annual meeting in July. He said the grant needs to be spent by September 2021. The next steps for the property’s overall cleanup include remediating the two lagoons located onsite, Colwell said.
While Campbell Environmental Group is not in charge of the lagoon cleanup, which includes covering the lagoons, Colwell said the firm has been “operating as a consultant to the town.”
“[They] helped prepare bid specifications to make sure that the bid covered the necessary minimum standards that the EPA would require for covering the lagoon area,” he said.
Colwell said the town already put out a request for bids for the project that came back unfulfilled. While the timeline for cleaning and covering the lagoons has not been finalized, another request for bids will be published and the town will look to work on the lagoons in the spring and summer, he said.
Colwell discussed options for covering the lagoons, which include using a permeable layer of dirt or gravel and then a layer of clay that will shed runoff water away from the lagoon.
He said the town plans to “use up the brownfield grant and see where we are,” by the September deadline.
This could mean the completion of clean-up efforts, based on final reports by the EPA, or continuing with projects funded by other means.
“We may end up with a shell of a building” and “land to utilize,” Colwell said.