OAKLAND – State environmental officials are completing a new cleanup plan for the charred remains of the former Cascade Woolen Mill. It was destroyed by a fire this winter.

But how much the work will cost and how it’s paid for will determine when the mill site can be completely cleaned up, state and town officials said.

Complicating matters is a recent determination by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection that there’s asbestos in the rubble, requiring a more detailed and expensive cleanup effort than originally thought.

“It obviously makes things much more difficult,” said Jean Firth, brownfields grant coordinator for the DEP. “Asbestos removal needs specialized training and costs go up because it’s taken to a special landfill.”

The building’s owner and lone tenant was Michael Dye of Hallowell, who owns K-D Display & Design Inc. Dye said he’s hoping that cleanup will begin soon.

And once the debris is removed, Dye said, “we do intend to improve the site and get something productive going down there again.”

Before the fire, the town had obtained a $200,000 “brownfields” grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the site. The town is aiming to use more than $100,000 remaining from the grant to cover the expense of removing the debris.

The Oakland Town Council recently asked for the assistance of the DEP to redesign the scope of the cleanup work and “help move the ball along” now that asbestos removal is involved, said Town Manager Peter Nielsen.

“We’re looking for work to start this summer,” Nielsen said.

DEP officials have a draft plan on the cleanup ready for a half-dozen contractors who will review the plan and offer bids, according to Firth. After a contractor is selected, cleanup work could begin as soon as June 14, but that’s only if the town has the funding needed to do it, she said.

A fire on Jan. 24 destroyed the 127-year-old structure in the heart of downtown Oakland. Investigators with the State Fire Marshal’s Office were not able to determine a cause of the blaze because of the extensive damage, but classified the case as accidental.

The town had last year been awarded the “brownfields” grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up contaminated soil and hazardous chemicals at the site.

At its peak in the 1980s and early 1990s, the Cascade Woolen Mill employed 250 workers. The company closed in 1997.

The EPA had originally determined that soil under and around the old mill was contaminated with metals, volatile organic compounds and inorganic compounds.

With the DEP now finishing its cleanup plan, Nielsen said the “ball is back in their court,” but whether the town can tap into the brownfields grant to finish cleanup “still remains in the future,” he said.

“We haven’t heard anything formal from the grantors to allow us to alter that very much,” Nielsen said.


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