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October 19, 2018

Phase 1 cleanup of Hancock Ellsworth tannery completed

Phase 1 of an interior cleanup of chromium, lead, mercury, arsenic, polychlorinated biphenyls, asbestos and other hazardous materials at the former site of the Hancock Ellsworth Tannery has been completed.

The Ellsworth American reported 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 involves the building structure itself and a parcel near the building.

"I'm hoping the site is well on the way to recovery and can be an asset to the entire town," Rich Campbell with Falmouth-based Campbell Environmental Group told the newspaper.

The Downeast town of Hancock has owned the former tannery since the previous owner, TT Corp. LLC of Hermon, failed to pay back taxes in 2015. Most of the grant money for phase one came from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's brownfields grant program. Falmouth-based Campbell Environmental Group, which specializes in brownfields grants. Last November, Campbell told the Ellsworth American the project envisions a revitalized area in Hancock with small businesses and affordable housing. Frenchman Bay Conservancy has committed to building a parking lot.

The tannery is located at 49 Tannery Road.

According to a 2015 environmental assessment performed by Campbell Environmental Group, the property encompasses 143 acres, and includes a former tannery building, pump house and two backfilled and capped wastewater lagoons.

The tannery was active from 1960 to 1972. After tannery operations ceased, the building was maintained and used as storage space into the mid-1990s. Historical tannery processes included washing pre-pickled sheepskins to remove acids and then soaking the hides in chromium sulfate baths. Degreasing was accomplished using naphtha as the primary solvent. The solvent fat mixture was then distilled and the grease was sold. Acid dyes were used to color the skins.

Two lagoons were located south of the access road. The lagoons were used to "settle out" chromium, but over the years some solvents were disposed of in the lagoons. At least one underground fuel oil storage tank was formerly present on the property; the tank leaked oil into the environment.

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