Belfast and Waldo County awarded $400,000 in federal brownfields cleanup grants
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday, May 28, that the city of Belfast and Congress Street Hill Property LLC of Belfast would each receive $200,000 for cleanup of contaminated properties.
The city of Belfast was awarded the funding to clean up the former Masker's Theater property on 45 Front St. Congress Street Hill Property, a legal entity created by the Waldo County government, was awarded its grant to clean up the old Waldo County Jail at 45 Congress St.
According to previously published reports, a Phase II environmental site assessment by Ransom Consulting found coal, low concentrations of metals and low levels of petroleum products spread throughout the soil on the former Masker's Theater property, and asbestos and lead paint in the theater building and a storage building on the property.
"One of the great things about this particular grant is it's really almost saving the city dollar for dollar $200,000 in local property taxes," said City Manager Joe Slocum. "It's a property that we were going to need to clean or make cleaner for purposes of reuse anyway. If we didn't get the grant we'd have to be thinking about local taxpayer dollars, so I give Thomas Kittredge, our economic development director, a lot of praise for helping local taxpayers save a lot of money on a property that's important to the city and one that we have the responsibility to address."
Slocum also noted that Kittredge performed this same service to help Waldo County prepare its brownfields grant application, which will also save Belfast, Waldo, Searsmont and other local taxpayers from having to pay for cleanup of the old Waldo County Jail site.
According to the county's grant application, the former Waldo County Jail, a brick building constructed in 1851, is the fourth oldest building of its type in Maine. With the the other structures on the property, a jailer's house and barn constructed in 1887 which show Italianate style architectural features, the site is an integral part of the Belfast Historic District, and the county wanted to preserve and reuse the buildings rather than demolish them. These goals corresponded well with the EPA's Brownfields Program which "empowers states, communities, and other stakeholders to work together to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfields," ... or properties "whose expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants," according to the EPA's website.
"It's a great thing for the county because it will do away with a cancer on our otherwise pristine neighborhood of buildings dating back to the 1800s," Waldo County Commissioner William Shorey said. "We're very hopeful that it will be a very positive impact on a building that is an eyesore in a very nice neighborhood at present."
In 2012, the county constructed a new Emergency Management building and vacated the 45 Congress Street buildings. The EPA-funded city of Belfast Brownfield Assessment Program found flaking lead paint on the walls and trim, accessible and damaged asbestos, mercury in lights, and universal wastes on the property. The EPA website also lists possible contaminants at the site as including inorganic contaminants, metals, and PCBs.
According to the county's grant application, the EPA funds would be used to clean up the asbestos, lead paint, and other hazardous building materials; abate long-term impacts from direct contact, inhalation of dust, and runoff of dust and contaminants; protect the public health of the nearby community during the cleanup process; and coordinate public information meetings about the project.
Future plans for the property after cleanup include affordable housing and/or elderly housing.
"The county is extremely pleased to get this grant and it would not have been possible with out the excellent help of Thomas Kittredge," Shorey said. "Partnering with the city of Belfast was a pretty important aspect of this venture, through the EPA-funded Brownfield Assessment Project."
With 11 recipients in Maine to receive a total of $3.8 million in fiscal year 2014, Maine will receive the second highest amount of brownfields funding behind Massachusetts, according to a press release from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
Potential brownfields grant applicants should contact Nick Hodgkins of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management, Brownfields Program, by phone at 207-287-2651 or by email at Nick.Hodgkins@maine.gov. More information can be found at www.maine.gov/dep/spills/brownfields.