CALAIS, Maine — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday awarded a $400,000 grant to the Washington County Council of Governments to identify potential hazardous sites in the county, including former gas stations and waste dumps.
The money came from a $111.9 million nationwide grant provided in part by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and from the EPA’s Brownfields General Program funding.
Judy East, executive director of WCCOG, said Monday that before applying for the grant, she had surveyed municipalities in Washington County to find out about potential problem areas.
“It is $200,000 for potential petroleum contaminated sites and then $200,000 for hazardous materials,” she said.
Of the $400,000, WCCOG will receive $40,000 to hire a consultant and create a countywide advisory committee to identify prospective sites. There will be soil and groundwater testing and a list of what cleanup measures will be needed, if any. “The bulk of the funds, $360,000, will be to pay a consultant found through a request for proposal process to do the site assessments on the properties identified by the advisory team,” she said.
Potential sites have been identified, she added.
“A brownfield, by definition, has a bit of a cloud over it. It may be contaminated, it may not. But just the uncertainty of that keeps it from being redeveloped,” she said.
Although the program was open to all 47 communities in Washington County, the WCCOG anticipates that a major focus of the inventory and assessment process will be in the downtown and village centers of Calais, Cherryfield, Cutler and Machias.
Potential problem areas include a blueberry trucking depot, a coal gasification facility and dump, a former rail yard, several gasoline service stations, three automobile repair facilities and a former manufacturing facility.
The former Cutler Naval Base housed auto repair facilities, petroleum fueling depots and hazardous waste storage areas among other possible problem areas.
East said that WCCOG would work with developers to obtain remediating funding for projects through the EPA and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Once the sites have been identified, WCCOG will apply for cleanup money. “To go forward with redevelopment,” East said.
WCCOG is a nonprofit coalition whose mission is to improve the quality of life for the residents of Washington County through positive communication promoting success and ensuring residents receive the public health and other support they need to achieve healthy, substance-free, productive and financially viable lives while respecting cultural and community differences.