OAKLAND — A project to remove jagged pieces of steel from beneath the feet of swimmers cost more than expected, but the town hopes to recover much of the money by selling the metal.

Fourteen truckloads of metal were recovered from the bottom of the swim area at the boat launch on Lake Messalonskee last month, according to Town Manager Peter Nielsen.

Most of the metal, originally dumped into the lake by a cannery about 100 years ago, was covered by 2 feet of silt on the lake bottom, but frost caused some of the metal to work its way to the top, where it has caused minor injuries to swimmers.

“It looked like cookie dough leftovers after you’d stamped out your cookies,” Nielsen said.

The metal was left there by Portland Packing Co., a vegetable packing plant that once cooked and canned agricultural products for local farmers. Nielsen said such companies, often called corn shops, were once common in Maine towns.

The dredging project, which took place in mid-June, cost the town $8,723, more than half of that for 200 yards of stone to cover that area of the lake bottom. The metal was beneath a larger area of the shore than was originally thought, Nielsen said.

Nielsen said that, when he presented the project to the town council for approval in April, he didn’t realize how much pea stone was going to be needed.

The project was paid for out of the town’s swim area reserve account, which has a balance of $77,078.

Nielsen said he hopes a substantial portion of the cost can be recouped by selling the recovered steel. Transfer station manager John Thomas is seeking the best price for the material, Nielsen said.

The price tag on the dredging project might seem like a lot but it was greatly reduced because of contributed help from the community, Nielsen said.

Help was provided by the town’s maintenance and grounds, public works, recreation, and police departments.

Work was also done by Friends of Messalonskee Lake, the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance, the Kennebec County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, which issued permits for the project.

Recreation Director Eric Seekins donated the use of his personal boat to help deploy a turbidity curtain, which was used to contain the silt stirred up by the dredging.

Nielsen said Adam Mushero, president of William Mushero Inc., did two days of excavation work for $800, a steeply discounted rate.

“He could have charged us three times that and it would have been fair,” he said.

Well digger Jim Wrigley donated the use of specialized mats that allowed the truck and excavator to drive to the water’s edge without damaging the ground beneath.

Nielsen said everyone saw the value in removing a hidden hazard from the lake.

“People are enjoying the lake safely, so we think we came out well,” Nielsen said.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287

[email protected]

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