Environmental cleanup funds, totaling $1.4 million, are to be distributed to Lyman, Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission, the City of Biddeford and Town of Kittery, for use in various improvement projects. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the brownsfields awards Wednesday through Congresswoman Chellie Pingree’s office and the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The funds are slated for several different efforts, from asbestos mitigation at a former school to pollutant removal at the former Maine Energy waste incinerator site.

Ӣ The Community Library in Lyman was awarded $200,000 for cleanup of Cousens Memorial School.

“I’m just thrilled,” said Victoria Gavel, a Lyman selectwoman who also served on a committee formed to consider reuse of the school. “It’s been a long time coming.”

The school building has been vacant for some time. A new roof and drain tile was installed a couple of years ago, after an earlier flood disturbed asbestos tiles and caused mold to form. And whatever the future use of the building is determined to be ”“ folks a few years ago suggested moving the town hall there or using it as a community center ”“ Gavel noted it cannot be used at all until the asbestos and mold is abated. She said it is the town’s intention to purchase the building from the Community Library once the cleanup is complete, but having it under the helm of a nonprofit in the meantime allows for the school effort to receive grants.

”¢ Biddeford’s Environmental Codes Officer Brian Phinney said the city intends to use its $200,000 award for cleanup at the former Maine Energy Recovery Company incinerator site. The incinerator was demolished after the city bought the property for $6.6 million.

“The cleanup will address low-level pollutants, typical of pollutants found in other areas within the mill yard complex,” said Phinney in an email Wednesday. “The cleanup will help reduce perceived environmental risks at the site and facilitate redevelopment plans. This cleanup activity is separate from, and in addition to, the dioxin and PCB cleanup projects funded entirely by Maine Energy/Casella.”

Ӣ Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission, based in Sanford, will use its $1 million award to help communities clean up hazardous materials through a revolving loan program.

Executive Director Paul Schumacher said the revolving loan program, which commenced nearly a decade ago, has contributed to several area improvements, including two mill cleanup projects in Sanford, an old North Berwick woolen mill that now sports housing for the elderly, transformation of an old church in South Berwick into a library, cleanup of a former gasoline station lot in downtown Kennebunk that has seen winter use as a skating rink, and cleanup at the North Dam Mill in Biddeford.

“There are still plenty of mills out there,” Schumacher said, harking to the need. And, he pointed out, smaller projects can be eligible for revolving loan funds, too.

“It doesn’t have to be 200,000 (square) feet of mill space for a successful project,” he said.

Since the revolving loan fund’s inception, SMPDC has used $4 million in EPA cleanup funds to initiate projects in seven communities throughout the region, leveraging more than $25 million in private and other public investment, said Schumacher.

Ӣ Kittery, which received $200,000, will use its award to clean up the old Wood Island Lifesaving station.

In all, Maine received $3.8 million from the EPA in grants announced Wednesday for projects from northern and eastern Maine to the southern tip of the Pine Tree State.

“Contaminated or potentially contaminated sites are a fiscal burden to Maine’s communities,” said Gov. Paul LePage in a prepared statement. “This funding helps put these properties back into productive use and protects our natural resources and public health.”

Since 2002, Maine has received more than $50 million in funding through the brownsfields program, created 750 jobs and assessed or cleaned up more than 1,500 acres across the state, according to the governor.

“These funds are critical to helping clean up polluted sites so they can be redeveloped for new uses,” said Pingree in her announcement. “The projects chosen for funding show huge potential for creating new jobs and economic activity, while making communities healthier and safer places to live and work.”

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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