ORONO, Maine — The town’s Webster Mill redevelopment project took another step forward this week when the Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday it had awarded Orono a $200,000 brownfield cleanup grant.
The grant is part of $6.15 million coming to Maine from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the EPA brownfields general program funds. The Webster Mill site, a former paper mill, is one of 15 around the state selected to receive EPA funds.
Town planner Evan Richert put together the grant materials last fall
“Those federal grants are a lot of effort to write and Evan did a great job,” Conlow said.
Orono is attempting the develop the former Webster Mill site, which is located near the intersection of Penobscot and North Main streets and the confluence of the Penobscot and Stillwater rivers.
The cleanup estimate announced last fall was $300,000, including $280,000 to clean up the soil, which contains chemicals such as arsenic and lead, and $20,000 for asbestos abatement in the mill building.
There has been activity on the 3-acre site since the late 1700s.
Richert told a group of community members last fall that the Maine Historic Preservation Commission judged the 130-year-old building eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places because it’s likely the only example of an unaltered 19th century paper mill remaining in Maine.
The town of Orono owns the property, which was taken for nonpayment of taxes in November 2006. It is zoned as limited and medium density residential.
On April 13 the Town Council authorized Town Manager Cathy Conlow to sign a memorandum of understanding with Portland-based development group Deep Cove II LLC.
The developers will spend the next year examining the site for potential uses. If the building were placed on the National Register of Historic Places, a profit-making concern would be eligible for up to a 45 percent tax credit. Nonprofit groups would not be eligible for tax credits.
The $200,000 grant is to be matched by the town at a level of $40,000,
“I’m hoping some of it might be done in our arrangement with the developer,” Richert said. “We’ll see how that works out.”
Brownfields are sites where expansion, redevelopment or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.