The former manager of the bankrupt Lincoln Paper and Tissue mill will lead early cleanup work at the contaminated industrial site under a settlement with federal regulators.
A federal bankruptcy judge approved the arrangement Thursday as part of a compromise negotiated between the mill, state and federal environmental regulators and the mill’s creditors.
The agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lays out plans for mill CEO Keith Van Scotter to oversee contractors removing radioactive materials, asbestos and other hazardous waste from the site.
The plan calls for the company to complete the initial cleanup within 180 days of approval, at a cost of about $250,000.
Under the deal, Van Scotter will get $200 an hour and reimbursement for certain expenses, operating as an independent project coordinator at the bankrupt mill. He’ll stay on that job for as much as a year, or until “substantial completion” of the cleanup work. His compensation is subject to review by the Office of the United States Trustee overseeing the case.
The EPA proposed the settlement in April, earning opposition from the Town of Lincoln over concerns that it would lead to the entire property getting tied up in environmental remediation for decades under the intensive Superfund program.
The town wants to put about 90 to 100 acres into the less stringent Brownfield program, which it said would allow them to redevelop it more quickly for biomass energy production, light manufacturing or wood products businesses.
The attorney for the mill said in court filings that they’ve been in negotiations over the land the town wants to redevelop and argued the town’s objection was an attempt to gain leverage in those discussions.
An attorney for the town was not immediately available for comment Friday morning.
The compromise resolves $80 million the EPA claimed the mill owed it in administrative expenses related to the cleanup. The company and its creditors with unsecured claims have asked the court to approve terms of the settlement with the EPA.
EPA and DEP have had their eye on the property for decades. The mill site had also been almost listed as a Superfund site in the early 2000s, but Gov. John Baldacci rejected the designation because at the time, the founders of Lincoln Paper and Tissue were about to restart the mill, according to town attorney Andy Hamilton.
Town officials in March voted to investigate whether the mill site would qualify for Superfund designation.