HOULTON, Maine — At last, the town’s long municipal nightmare with the Hows Corner Superfund site is over.
Town Manager Doug Hazlett said Monday that the town has signed paperwork that should end its fiscal involvement with the ongoing Superfund site cleanup.
Houlton is a potentially responsible party, or PRP, for cleaning up the waste-oil contamination at the site in Plymouth in southern Penobscot County.
Some 250 PRPs allegedly disposed of oil through the Portland-Bangor Waste Oil Co. George West Jr., reportedly the owner of the disposal company, used a portion of the site as a depository for the oil. West had accepted more than 235,000 gallons of waste oil, solvents and other substances at his facility in West Plymouth.
The site ultimately contaminated 10 home wells and affected more than 200 acres. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have determined that it could take more than 100 years for the water to be clean again.
PRPs deemed responsible for the contamination are charged with reimbursing the government for the cleanup.
The town of Houlton reportedly sent 270 gallons of oil to the site.
Thus far, the town has authorized approximately $28,000 for its portion of the multimillion-dollar project.
That should be the end, Hazlett said Monday, as the result of action that began approximately two years ago.
The settlement on behalf of the town stems from action taken by the Legislature in 2007, when a law was passed to help pay for the cost of the cleanup. The law created a process in which eligible PRPs could have the costs associated with the cleanup paid from the proceeds of bonds issued by the Finance Authority of Maine.
All of the PRPs were sent a questionnaire to determine eligibility, and Houlton was deemed eligible under the law.
“This is a really good settlement for us, being one of the PRPs,” said Hazlett. “We will not go bankrupt but we will pay for what we have been told is our share of the cost. I think everyone is glad this is over.”
Town councilors have been kept abreast of the process. Councilors have long expressed frustration about the Superfund site, as municipal officials have never known exactly how much money they would have to come up with for the cleanup. Councilors feared town finances would be strained by a never-ending payment schedule into the future.
Hazlett said the proper paperwork has been signed and returned.
“This is going to spare us more money and more time,” Hazlett said Monday. “We sent the oil there in good faith that it would be disposed of properly, and we did not know that contamination was occurring. It is good that this is over.”