CARIBOU, Maine — Officials in Aroostook County are taking a step forward in efforts to clean up contaminated sites in the region thanks to a $400,000 federal grant.
The Northern Maine Development Commission has been awarded $400,000 by the Environmental Protection Agency to assist in the revitalization of brownfield sites.
The EPA grant is part of a larger $3.8 million award to the state announced late last week by members of Maine’s congressional delegation.
A brownfield is property whose expansion, redevelopment or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. The EPA’s Brownfields Program helps states and local communities assess, safely clean up and reuse brownfields for economic development projects.
Connie Akerson, Northern Maine Development Commission environmental planner, said Wednesday that the group is excited because this grant allows for the cleanup of sites that have co-mingled pollutants.
“Oftentimes, we get grants that allow us to only clean up sites that are contaminated by petroleum products,” she said. “But this allows us to clean up these co-mingled sites, so we are very pleased about that.”
Properties potentially contaminated with hazardous substances such as pesticides, fertilizers and chemicals used in manufacturing can qualify for the funding.
Jay Kamm, Northern Maine Development Commission senior planner, said the program is voluntary and free to landowners.
“The landowner has to agree for us to go on the property and do the assessment,” said Kamm. “Our goal is to close the loop so after the assessment landowners can seek cleanup funds such as NMDC’s Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund or cleanup grants. These assessments provide the needed framework for cleaning the properties so that they can be revitalized.”
Akerson said that potential cleanup sites have not yet been identified. Northern Maine Development Commission did a brief municipal survey to get an idea about how many sites could benefit from the grant but those who believe they are eligible for the cleanup have to apply for assistance. The EPA has final approval over which sites will be selected.
“It is a great opportunity for municipalities because a lot of times these properties will sit idle due to the potential contamination,” she said. “It takes away the fear for the purchaser or developer to build and reuse the property.”
Thanks to previous grant money, nine Aroostook County brownfields with possible petroleum contamination were addressed.
“Whenever we can get in and perform assessment work on a property it is a benefit all around — it is a benefit to the community, the property owner and the environment. It is a win-win for everyone,” said Akerson.
Members of the state’s congressional delegation also were pleased to hear the news.
“These investments will provide economic opportunities in Maine, while helping to protect the integrity of the environment for future generations,” U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins said in a joint statement.
“This important funding will help Maine communities to revitalize hazardous land for development,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud.
The program will begin Oct. 1 and will run for three years. Municipalities or landowners who want information are urged to call Kamm or Akerson at Northern Maine Development Commission at 498-8736 or visit www.northernmainebrownfields.org.