BIDDEFORD — It’s been about one and a half years since the City of Biddeford purchased the Maine Energy Recovery Company waste-to-energy incinerator for $6.75 million, in November 2012.

The facility closed for good in December of that year.

While some may think little has happened with the site since, that’s not the case.

On June 9, the city received authorization from the Environmental Protection Agency that the plan for cleaning up polychlorinated biphenyl, commonly known as PCBs, at the site of a former waste incinerator was approved, and bids are now being sought for a contractor to conduct that work.

Meanwhile, the deadline for a request for proposals for a feasibility study to help develop the site has passed. On July 1, it is expected that Biddeford City council will select a firm to conduct the study.

By the beginning of next year, there could be leads for firms that are interested in locating on the 8.5-acre property, said Economic Development Director Dan Stevenson.

Maine Energy, owned by Casella Waste Systems, Inc., had been a burr in the city’s side practically since the time it began operations in 1987.

Located between Biddeford’s downtown and mill district, and near the city’s border with Saco, it had been blamed for a host of problems, such as harming citizens’ health, emitting noxious odors and being the cause of lack of development in downtown and mill district of both cities.

Removal of the PCBs is one of the last steps in getting the site “shovel ready” and primed for development, said Environmental Code Officer Brian Phinney.

“The plan is to have that done before winter,” he said.

Earlier this spring, dioxins, which were believed to be a result of ash from the Maine Energy facility, were cleaned up on the site.

That area was “cleaned up to a residential standard,” said Phinney.

The PCBs are believed to have been left on the site by a previous owner, he said.

The area where they are located will only be cleaned up to a park standard, said Phinney. A portion of the Biddeford RiverWalk will be located on that portion of the property, he said.

The clean-up plan, said Phinney, involves excavating and removing the most contaminated soils to a special, regulated, out-of-state facility. Less contaminated soil will be shipped to a special in-state facility and the least contaminated soils will “capped off.” They will be covered with a barrier shield, and topped with a minimum of four feet of soil and fill.

After this process is completed, or possibly at the same time, the city will be responsible for cleaning up some lower risk debris on the property, which would include petroleum residue and metals. Biddeford received $200,000 in federal funding in a brownfield clean-up grant to conduct this work, said Phinney.

With the clean-up work near completion, economic development efforts are also going full steam ahead.

On April 9, the city put out a request for proposals, or RFP, for a market and feasibility study for the site. By the May 16 deadline, five proposals were received, said Stevenson. He said he and other city staff are in the process of selecting a candidate that they will recommend to the city council.

According to the public notice for the RFP, which was posted locally and nationally, “The successful consultant will have the unique opportunity to assist the city to identify the highest and best use of the property including various types of mixed-uses including, but not limited to, commercial, retail, industrial, residential and tourist uses that the market will support.”

Experience, responsiveness to the RFP, the work plan and the as cost will be considered in selecting a firm, said Stevenson.

While city staff will be involved in the process, said Stevenson, the market and feasibility study is a “huge undertaking.”

The firms that specialize in this work “have access to all the data,” he said. The selected firm will look at demographics, market feasibility, financial feasibility, the fiscal impact on city services and more, said Stevenson.

The consultants will analyze all this information prior to making recommendations, he said.

As part of their work, they will be responsible for conducting a national search of developers that may be interested in locating and/or investing in the property, said Stevenson.

The entire process will take between three to six months, he said.

By the completion, “We’ll have real leads” and be poised for development, said Stevenson.

— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]

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