The first round of cleanup at the former site of the Hancock Ellsworth Tannery was recently completed. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MAXWELL HAUPTMAN

Hancock tannery cleanup underway

HANCOCK — The building may still be covered in graffiti, but at least the asbestos is gone. That’s the result of the recently completed first round of cleanup at the former site of the Hancock Ellsworth Tannery. The work was funded through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The 71,370-square-foot former tannery sits on a 151-acre site near the Tideway Market along Route 1. It was built in the early 1950s and operated as a tannery until the early 1970s, and has been abandoned since the 1990s.

“What remained were remnants from the leather tanning process. That included chromium and other hazardous materials such as lead, mercury and arsenic,” said Tom Hatzopoulos, on-scene coordinator for the EPA. “There were also polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and asbestos on the piping and the boiler.”

This stage of the cleanup focused on the interior of the building, and lasted from Sept. 5 through Sept. 27. The hazardous material was collected and segregated according to waste stream before being taken to landfills.

In total, 90 cubic yards of PCBs and other hazardous metals, 270 cubic yards of asbestos and asbestos-contaminated material, five 55-gallon drums of fluorescent light bulb debris and a small amount of other toxic detritus such as aerosol cans were removed at a cost of approximately $370,000.

The next phase of the cleanup will be funded with two $200,000 grants from the EPA’s Brownfields program. One grant is for the building itself, while the other is for a parcel near the building contaminated by fuel oil.

“We’re just figuring out what the next steps will be,” said Hancock Selectman Rick Merchant.

Rich Campbell with Falmouth-based Campbell Environmental Group and the Hancock County Planning Commission helped write the grant application, for which the town had been turned down for twice before.

“The town had previously applied, but the competition for funding is very stiff because you’re competing with the rest of the country,” Campbell said.

The Planning Commission and the town of Hancock will review the site on Oct. 26 to evaluate what work remains to be done.

“The areas where there are environmental impacts are a small part of the overall site,” Campbell said.

“I’m hoping the site is well on the way to recovery and can be an asset to the entire town,” Campbell said.

Maxwell Hauptman

Maxwell Hauptman

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Maxwell Hauptman has been reporting for The Ellsworth American since 2018. He covers eastern Hancock and western Washington counties and welcomes story tips and ideas. He can be reached at [email protected]

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