New agreement over Callahan Mine cleanup to curb trucks on local roads

Posted Jan. 09, 2017, at 2:07 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 09, 2017, at 6:09 p.m.

BROOKSVILLE, Maine — A new agreement concerning the former Callahan Mine will allow the cleanup of the superfund site to continue but cut down on the number of trucks on the roads on the Cape Rosier peninsula.

The agreement, announced Friday in a news release by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will allow for the use of “borrow material,” such as soil, sand, silt, clay, gravel and boulders, from the site rather than having materials trucked in from other places to fill in the areas where contaminated soil was removed from the superfund site.

The settlement also provides EPA and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection with permanent access rights over the property to perform and monitor the environmental response, the release said.

“Reaching this settlement is good news for the community of Brooksville,” EPA Regional Administrator Curt Spalding said in the release. “It allows the site cleanup to move forward, and promotes continued protection of public health in the area.”

The agreement settled all state and federal claims against Smith Cove Preservation Trust, which owns the property.

The cost of the cleanup is estimated to be $27 million, according to Emily Bender, spokeswoman for the EPA. So far, about $7 million has been spent, she said Monday in an email.

An estimated completion date was not released.

The remediation work began in 2010 with the removal of mine waste from several residential properties near the site, the cleanup of PCB contaminated soil from the former mine operations area, and the installation of a horizontal drain in the tailing impoundment with an associated bioreactor, according to David Madore, spokesman for the DEP.

“Once the cleanup actions are complete, the site could be used for nonresidential purposes, such as a park,” Madore said. “The property is privately owned. The landowner will determine the future use [of the site].”

Smith Cove Preservation Trust, a nonprofit corporation based in Brecksville, Ohio, was formed in the 1980s by a “conservation-minded, local family,” according to a spokeswoman for the trust who declined to be identified or to name the family.

“The Smith Cove Preservation Trust was formed to help conserve the natural resources of the shoreline of the Maine coast and maintain land access for the people from the area,” she said Monday in an email.

The spokeswoman also said it is too soon to discuss how the land might be used once the cleanup is completed.

The trust could deed the property to the town, an idea floated in 2012 but rejected by Brooksville over concerns it would be liable for cleanup costs.

The Callahan Mine superfund site is located in Harborside Village in the town of Brooksville. The site is the former location of a zinc/copper open-pit mine, the release said. The mining operations were conducted adjacent to and beneath Goose Pond, a tidal estuary.

The major mining operations occurred from 1968 to 1972, although there were some limited mining activities from 1881 to 1887, according to information posted on the EPA’s website. During the mining operations, Goose Pond was drained to allow for the excavation of the rock and ore. After the mining operations ended in 1972, the dam at Goose Falls was opened, flooding the mine site.

The announcement of the settlement comes as new rules governing metal mining in Maine have been proposed. The Maine Board of Environmental Protection voted unanimously last week to provisionally adopt new regulations that could open the door for large-scale metal mining, which hasn’t occurred in Maine since 1977 and was prohibited in 1990, after pollution issues were evaluated at the Callahan Mine.

The BEP’s decision means the Legislature will vote for the third time on mining regulations developed by the DEP after lawmakers twice voted down previous versions created to implement a new 2012 law. That law changed Maine’s two-decade-old mining regulations in an attempt to streamline and modernize permitting of metal mines.

The 2012 law was spearheaded by Rep. John Martin of Eagle Lake in part because of an interest by Canadian forest products giant JD Irving Ltd. in potentially developing a mine for copper, zinc and other metals at Bald Mountain in Aroostook County, where the company owns industrial timberland in the North Woods.

The Callahan Mine settlement agreement is subject to a 30-day public comment period, which will begin Thursday, after the proposed settlement is published in the Federal Register.

 

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