April 27, 2018

Cleanup of Camden tannery site continues, thanks to brownfields grant

Nine other Maine communities receive EPA brownfield grants

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, announced this week that $3.2 million in federal funding has been awarded for the assessment and cleanup of 10 brownfields sites in Maine by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The January 2017 assessment from the Economic Development Assessment Team — originally requested in March 2016 by Collins and King — highlighted the importance of the EPA Brownfields Program and its potential to leverage federal resources to redevelop former industrial sites, support the viability of impacted mill communities, and help to grow Maine's rural economy.

A brownfield site is a property that contains a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant that hinders the potential to reuse or redevelop the site. The EPA's Brownfields Program assists states and local communities as they assess, safely clean up, and reuse brownfields sites for economic development projects.

In addition to Camden, the following brownfield projects received EPA funding:

  • Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments: $800,000

  • Greater Portland Council of Governments: $300,000

  • Town of Hancock: $400,000

  • Kennebec Valley Council of Governments: $200,000

  • Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission: $200,000

  • City of Portland: $200,000

  • City of Sanford: $300,000

  • Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission: $200,000

  • Town of Wiscasset: $400,000.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved a $200,000 Brownfields and Land Revitalization grant to the town of Camden for the continued cleanup of the Apollo Tannery property on Washington Street.

The grant is one of 10 statewide grants, totaling $3.2 million, made by the EPA to assist communities as they work to redevelop contaminated sites in order to promote environmental integrity and future economic investment.

The PenBay Pilot reported the site remains contaminated and undeveloped despite the town's efforts to date to clean it, after 100 years of heavy industrial operations. Contaminations include benzoapyrene and arsenic.

The tannery closed in 1999. Camden acquired it through a lien foreclosure in 2003. The cleanup was the first issue taken up by the Community Economic Development Advisory Committee when it was established in 2009, committee chairman Peter Gross told the newspaper.

The town is considering both green space and commercial use for the site. The Camden Farmers' Market operates there in the summer.

In 2010, the Community Economic Development Advisory Committee's then-chairman Martin Cates told Mainebiz the town had created a "Land for Jobs" initiative that would provide land at the site to the right business for free. The town had identified certain industries that would fit within the residential location of the site, including biotechnology, information technology, financial services and health care, and a building there could support up to 300 jobs.

The site is on a tree-lined, residential stretch of Washington Street. The property's manufacturing history goes back to 1855 with the construction of the Gould Plug and Wedge Mill.

In 1887, it became the Camden Woolen Co. and employed 125 people. In 1953, the Camden Tannery Corp. took over. In 1997, it was leased to Apollo Tanning and operated for two years before the company applied for bankruptcy in 2000.


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