Study finds possible Rockland public works site that may have buried barrels of waste

Posted Dec. 17, 2012, at 5:15 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — A 13-acre city-owned parcel near the transfer station could be used for a new public works complex.

No building plans have been put forward for the project but an engineering study of the site by Summit Geoengineering Services of Augusta was presented to the city last week.

The report also indicated there may be barrels of waste buried on the property, but not in the area where the new complex would be located.

City Manager James Smith said in his weekly report to the council that an initial review shows the site as a potential location for the proposed new public works garage and offices. A salt storage facility also is being considered for the site.

The property is located at the intersection of upper Pleasant Street and the former entrance to the transfer station.

In July, the council voiced support for seeking voter approval for a new public works complex but said that November 2012 was too soon.

Voters rejected borrowing up to $2.9 million in November 2011 for a new public works facility and a salt shed. The bond referendum was defeated 895-881. Voters had rejected a similar proposal, by a larger margin, in 2007.

In July, the city manager said that a possible alternative site for the public works facility would be the location near the transfer station.

The past two bond referendums would have had the new facility for a garage and offices built at the current public works garage property on Burrows Street. City officials have said the possible new site could allow the building to serve as space for the solid waste department as well as public works. Former Mayor Brian Harden said in July that the new site could be less expensive to build on and the city could offset some of the costs by selling the Burrows Street property.

One statement in the report indicates that some 55-gallon drums of waste may be buried on the 13-acre property, but not in the area where the buildings would be located.

“We understand that significant portions of the northern gravel pad area (currently occupied by compost and gravel-sand stockpiles) may contain buried 55 gallon drums filled with paint waste or similar. Exact location and extent of the buried steel drums is not known by Summit,” the report stated.

Craig Coolidge, vice president and senior geotechnical engineer with Summit, said Monday he did not want to comment on the report since he had been hired by the city.

City Manager James Smith and Public Works Director Greg Blackwell said Monday they had not heard about any barrels being buried on the property but Smith said he would look into the matter and would want it cleaned up if that was the case.

Smith said later in the day that he had spoken to longtime public works employees and there are some conflicting recollections. He said it appears the statements made to the engineering firm from one employee may have been incorrect. He said items were likely buried there but it may not be barrels of paint. He said he was continuing to check into it and the city was checking with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to see what its records show.

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