HOWLAND, Maine — Town officials will hold a “kickoff meeting” tonight for the first phase of the long-awaited cleanup of a former tannery site off Route 6, Town Manager Jane Jones said.
“It’s a kickoff meeting to get everybody on the same page with the project and to ensure that all the people at the table are communicating because this is one of these instances where there are many different agencies cooperating to get the work done,” Jones said Monday.
Officials from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and town, among others, will discuss how $600,000 in federal stimulus funds appropriated for the project will be spent on the cleanup.
The meeting is at 6 p.m. at the town office, Selectman Frank Kirsch said.
Since it closed in 1971, the tannery has been seen as a symbol of the town’s economic doldrums. Five times since then, the town has sold the property, which overlooks the Penobscot and Piscataquis rivers, but has had to reclaim it when owners left. Once home to the town’s largest employer, the tannery site has loomed large in more recent revitalization plans that proponents hope to realize by 2012.
The Penobscot River Restoration Trust plans to build a fish bypass near the tannery site, green some tannery land, and dig a channel for the bypass as part of a project opening nearly 1,000 miles of habitat to Atlantic salmon, alewives and other sea-run fish now blocked from migrating upriver.
The trust plans to buy three other dams along the river.
The town portion of the cleanup, which is funded by the $600,000 EPA grant awarded in May, will not include the razing of any site buildings. It will pay for the removal of contaminants left on three shoreline spots, the most challenging aspect of the site’s cleanup, Jones said.
A feasibility study on the cleanup indicated that removing all buildings and contaminants would cost about $4 million, Jones said. She is searching for more federal and state funds to remove the buildings on the town-owned portions of the site.
“To do the more cursory cleanup was $200,000,” Jones said, “and to do this, a midlevel cleanup, is to stabilize the site and ensure that we can make use of as much of the land as we can.”
The grant requires that 35 percent of the stimulus funds, or about $210,000, be spent by July 31. That means that the engineering firm the town hired to oversee the work, CES Inc. of Brewer, will start work as soon as weather permits, Jones said.
“We are very optimistic that we will complete this work during this year’s construction season,” Jones said. “We will be taking the first, real positive steps to clean up much of what is on that site.”