November 12, 2019
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Feds to begin demolition of historic Maine mill structure in September

Shawn P. Sullivan | York County Coast Star
Shawn P. Sullivan | York County Coast Star
The federal Environmental Protection Agency's demolition of the rear structure of the historic Stetson Mill in Sanford is expected to begin in late January.

SANFORD, Maine — The demolition of the rear structure of the Stenton Trust mill complex is expected to begin at the end of September, according to City Manager Steven Buck.

Located at 13 River St., the building was destroyed on June 23, 2017, in one of the biggest fires in the history of Sanford. The blaze took plenty of history with it: the complex was completed in 1922 and was originally where Goodall Worsted Company made its popular Palm Beach Cloth, a lightweight fabric often used for men’s suits.

Buck announced the start date for the demolition in his latest manager’s report, which he presented to city councilors at their meeting last week.

[Historic Maine building gutted by fire scheduled for demolition]

Representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency met with contractors for an on-site scoping meeting on Aug. 21, according to Buck.

The EPA’s regional office in Boston, Massachusetts, is managing the demolition, which is anticipated to take between four and six months — which means work could continue through the winter, Buck said in response to a question from City Councilor John Tuttle.

The contractor will remove and dispose of all contaminated materials from the hollowed-out structure. The contractor also will process and remove all concrete that is unable to be certified for clean use, Buck added in his report. Lastly, the contractor will remove the steel but leave the structure’s foundation intact.

The complex is all on one continuous foundation, so the EPA will be able to remove all identifiable friable asbestos from the twin neighboring structure that is closest to River Street, according to Buck. That front building will remain and in fact has a potential buyer.

At the moment, it is undetermined whether portions of the structure’s saw-toothed roof will be saved and reused, according to Buck.

The EPA will pay for the demolition of the back tower and the removal of asbestos from the front tower, according to Beth Della Valle, the city’s planning and development director. The city’s public works department will be responsible for removing some of the clean – that is, not contaminated – solid waste from the site.

On July 30, the city notified the Maine Historic Preservation Commission about the impending demolition. According to Della Valle, the commission has responded to the city and has stated that the front mill and the saw-toothed roof appear to be eligible for designation to the National Register of Historic Places – a status that, if granted, may prove helpful in acquiring historic rehabilitation tax credits for the front structure’s revitalization.

[Boys plead guilty to criminal mischief in Sanford arson case]

Once the demolition is complete, the city plans to use Brownfields funds to do Phase 2 assessments and prepare for a cleanup plan to address any remaining contamination at the site, according to Della Valle.

The city and an outreach team from the EPA is hoping to hold an informational meeting about the demolition for the public during the third week of September, Buck added. The date, time and location have not yet been announced.

The 2017 blaze was one for the historic books — more than 150 firefighters from Maine and New Hampshire needed more than 30 pieces of apparatus to battle the flames and drew water from four hydrants and nearby Number One Pond to blast roughly seven million gallons at the inferno. The 300,000-square-foot structure was so engulfed in flames that firefighters only could attack it from the outside. Steady, black plumes of smoke could be seen from miles around, and ashes and other debris fell from the sky and littered surrounding neighborhoods. Residents spoke of feeling the fire’s heat from blocks away.

Three local boys, ages 12 and 13 at the time, were arrested and charged with arson within days of the incident. Last October, two of the boys pleaded guilty to reduced charges of misdemeanor criminal mischief and were sentenced to a year of probation. Last November, the third boy pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal mischief.

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