Federal cleanup of old tannery site to be done by October

Posted Sept. 17, 2012, at 2:53 p.m.

CANTON, Maine — Work to clean up the old Brindis Leathers Tannery site is expected to be complete by mid-October.

The cleanup project, which was originally scheduled to be done in August, is part of a larger, multi-pronged project to redevelop Canton’s downtown area fronted by Route 108 and Route 140. It includes a new public access boat launch site being built by the state and a new dam on Whitney Brook, the outlet of Lake Anasagunticook.

The tannery was built around the turn of the century after Lyman Smith bought several dams on Whitney Brook between the lake and Cross Street, took them out and put in one dam for the tannery, according to Malcolm Ray, Canton engineer and member of the Dam Advisory Committee. Brindis Leathers Tannery operated until the mid-1970s.

Canton did two small projects with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Ray said.

The first involved researching historical uses of the property to determine if it contained hazardous materials. It did. The second phase had the department sampling soil and digging test wells for water samples.

Canton took the old tannery dam by eminent domain; it also took property on both sides of the brook. The side along Route 140 wasn’t contaminated. It only had tannery storage buildings.

So the brownfields cleanup work targets the land between the brook and the new Town Office.

“It’s right where the old tannery building was and the old tanning pits, which were the worst of the problem,” Ray said. “It was near the wing walls of the old dam, and when the tannery burned, they basically just piled everything into the pits.”

Most of the contamination is coal ash from the railroad, he said. Among the chemicals found in the tanning pits are arsenic and zinc.

The department then determined the contaminants didn’t need to be excavated and carted off. They could just be covered and contained, Ray said.

“The hazardous materials that are on-site aren’t going anyplace,” he said. “It’s not like they were leaching into the water or into the brook.

Ray said they are considered “contact contaminants,” which means a person would actually need to come into direct physical contact for there to be a problem. “So as long as you cover it up so people can’t come into contact with it, it’s fine,” he said.

That meant Canton had to mark the hazardous materials area by placing a geo-textile layer over it. That indicates where the contamination starts for any future contractor that happens to dig on-site, said Kevin Cooley, a Kleinschmidt engineer.

Ray said clean fill will be placed atop the geo-textile layer, along with loam, so grass can be grown. The contractor hired to do that work is M. O. Harris Inc., while Ransom Consulting Inc. is the project engineer.

Ray said the EPA brownfields cleanup grant project is a federally funded $200,000 project that required a 20-percent town match. That portion involves work to clear brush on the lot’s backside. The town has ordered trees from Maine’s Project Canopy and is waiting to plant.

Another section of unused or unneeded property that came with the land-taking extends from the dam to Route 108 and between Route 140 and Whitney brook below the dam.

Ray said a committee will determine what to do with the properties once the state gives Canton a clean bill of health on the brownfields site.

“Our hope is those properties will get sold and get new owners who will find some kind of a use for them,” he said.

That includes the old fire station fronting Route 108. Ray said they didn’t remove it yet for fear of losing the right to put something back on the footprint due to shoreland zoning laws.

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