September 15, 2019
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Burned out Sanford mill torn down

Shawn P. Sullivan | Seacoast Online
Shawn P. Sullivan | Seacoast Online
The EPA has completed its dismantling of the rear Stenton Trust mill on River Street and is now focusing on removing the debris at the site. This view of the now-lone Stenton Trust mill is seen from lower High Street.

SANFORD, Maine — And then there was one.

For nearly a century, the twin towers of the Stenton Trust Mill complex at 13 River St. were a familiar and iconic sight in downtown Sanford. With the dismantling of the rear tower now complete, that view has been altered forever.

The Environmental Protection Agency late last month began to disassemble the structure, which was destroyed in a blaze June 23, 2017. Over a period of two weeks, a track excavator, equipped with claw-like shears at the end of a telescopic arm, chipped away at the ruined mill, starting at the top of its northwest corner and working towards the other end, chunks at a time, until the building disappeared from the landscape and was nothing more than a pile of debris.

That huge pile of debris is the EPA’s next order of business, according to Dave Deegan, of EPA’s Office of Public Affairs at its regional office in Boston, Massachusetts.

“EPA’s current work on the site is to carefully go through the building debris, sorting materials for appropriate disposal or re-use,” Deegan stated in an email this week. “Under this effort, steel will be sent off-site for reuse and recycling. Concrete will be sent off-site for disposal.”

Specifically, steel being removed from the site is being sent to Schnitzer Steel in Everett, Massachusetts, for recycling, according to EPA On-Scene Coordinator John McKeown, who provided a look at the scene as the dismantling got under way. The concrete and other materials will be taken to an approved facility in Norridgewock for proper disposal, given that contaminants, such as asbestos, are not easily removed from them as they are from steel, McKeown added.

Deegan said the EPA’s current work of evaluating and addressing the debris at the site is estimated to take through the end of September. From there, EPA’s involvement at the site will have just a few more weeks to go.

“All of EPA’s site activities should be completed by the end of October, including the final sampling prior to the reopening of Stenton Trust Drive,” Deegan said.

The EPA is leading and financing the project, which is estimated to cost approximately $1.9 million. Environmental Restoration is the EPA’s primary contractor for the overall project. Costello Dismantling Company, of Exeter, New Hampshire, is the subcontractor for the dismantling.

The EPA is also removing the two one-story structures that stood on either side of the doomed mill and shared walls with it. The front tower will remain and is available for redevelopment; earlier this summer, the EPA removed potentially friable asbestos from the structure and from the tunnel leading from it to a nearby storage garage.

The EPA has emphasized the safety precautions throughout the process. During the dismantling, the crew sprayed water on the structure and its surroundings to tamp down dust. It also tracked the air quality of the site’s perimeter and maintained that the project would be halted if any issues arose and only would begin again once those issues were resolved. The U.S. Coast Guard has been administering on-site safety inspections and control throughout the process, and the Sanford Police Department has assisted with increased surveillance and patrols.

The Stenton Trust Mill complex opened in 1922 and was originally where Goodall Worsted Company made its popular Palm Beach Cloth, a lightweight fabric often used in manufacturing men’s suits. In its later years, the complex was home to assorted businesses that came and went.

Jonathan Morse, of Gateway Properties in Reno, Nevada, owns the property, according to city records.

Once the EPA is finished the project, the city will use the $300,000 in Brownfields funds it received from the EPA last year to assess the property. The city will clean up any remaining contamination at the site, using some of the multi-purpose funds the EPA also granted it this summer.

The fire that destroyed the 300,000-square-foot rear tower was one of the biggest ones in Sanford during the past 100 years. More than 150 firefighters from Maine and New Hampshire needed more than 30 pieces of apparatus to battle the blaze and drew water from four hydrants and nearby Number One Pond. The fire drew thousands of spectators who filled Gateway Park and lined the streets of surrounding neighborhoods to watch the building burn.

Three local boys were arrested and charged with arson within days of the incident. Two of them later pleaded guilty to charges of misdemeanor criminal mischief and were sentenced to a year of probation. The third boy pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal mischief.



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