Federal environmental officials are awaiting the results of testing conducted at the burned out rear portion of the Stenton Trust Mill in Sanford. The results of the various tests, conducted in mid-September, will determine whether the federal Environmental Protection Agency will take part in efforts to demolish the structure.
“We’re waiting for data,” said EPA Emergency Response Coordinator John McKeown on Friday. He said once that comes in, he’ll generate a report and send it on to managers of the EPA’s Time Critical Removal Program for their decision.
An EPA contractor took soil and sediment samples from inside storm drains as well as around the perimeter of the Stenton Trust complex on Sept. 13, said City Manager Steve Buck in a recent report. The samples were collected to determine if contaminants, such as asbestos fibers, might be found outside the burned building, released during the fire, or if other pathways such as wind or water present a release hazard, Buck said.
McKeown said the report will also include information like the location of the building and its proximity to residential neighborhoods and water bodies.
The rear tower of the long vacant mill burned during the evening on June 23. The fire spread throughout the rear tower of the building very quickly and raged on through the night. Firefighters from 26 departments using 35 pieces of fire apparatus sprayed 7 million gallons of water on the old mill building — about 5.5 million of which came from nearby Number One Pond.
The Stenton Trust mill building consists of two 5-story parallel concrete buildings joined by a walkway. It was built in 1922 as part of the Goodall textile empire. After the mills closed, various smaller industries located there. It has been vacant and abandoned for about a decade.
City records continue to list the owner as Gateway Properties, LLC, a corporation listed as dissolved by the state Bureau of Corporations. Jonathan Morse, who had owned Gateway Properties, LLC, is listed as living in Reno, Nevada. Property taxes have not been paid on the 6.8 acre parcel for many years.
Soon after the fire, the Sanford City Council agreed that all of the mill should come down, including the less-damaged tower that fronts on River Street. At that time, Buck said if no outside help was available, the city would seek proposals for demolition and clean-up and an authorization of a bond or use undesignated funds to pay for it.
The EPA in 2008 and 2009 removed and disposed of barrels of hazardous wastes that had been inside the old mill building.
In the days following the fire, the city fenced the entire area around the mill. Fire officials believed the fire compromised the strength of the steel in the structure. Fire Chief Steve Benotti said he is concerned that moisture and freezing temperatures could exacerbate the issue, but is unsure to what degree.
“The way it is built it is hard to say what damage the heat has caused,” said Benotti.
There is concern the shell could collapse. Benotti on Friday said if that happened, it is believed that it would fall within the fenced-in area.
On Thursday, two boys each admitted to one charge of misdemeanor criminal mischief in connection with the fire and were sentenced to one year probation. A felony arson charge against each boy will be taken up in January, and according to their lawyers, are expected to be dismissed if the two boys comply with directives imposed by the juvenile justice system. A third boy is scheduled to make his court appearance Oct. 26. One of the boys is 12 years old. The others are 13.