TRAILS IN THE Brunswick Town Commons. The Navy will be searching the area from any debris that originated from a quarry on the former Brunswick Naval Air Station.

TRAILS IN THE Brunswick Town Commons. The Navy will be searching the area from any debris that originated from a quarry on the former Brunswick Naval Air Station.

BRUNSWICK

Town officials are saying the planned search of an area of the Town Commons next week for debris from a quarry operated by the Navy is a precautionary measure.

“If we thought, or they thought, that this was a situation that called for panic, we would have closed that area immediately,” said Interim Brunswick Town Manager John Eldridge.

The quarry, which lies to the east of Route 123, across from the Town Commons, contains “landfilled materials and other miscellaneous debris typical of Navy operations from the past,” according to a fact sheet produced by the Navy, that included metal fragments, flares and small fuzes, charges, and aircraft rocket parts.

As the Navy has been studying the area for remediation, a few items have been found west toward Route 123, and so the Navy is continuing their search across the road into the Commons.

The quarry area lies across the street from the Commons. Most of that parcel will be conveyed to Bowdoin College, according to Eldridge, not to the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, as was originally reported.

“They found debris at the site at the former Naval Air Station. As they continued their investigation toward Harpswell Road, they found fewer items,” said Eldridge. “If they find anything at the Town Commons, I don’t think anyone expects to it so be significant.”

Eldridge said areas of the Town Commons will be closed as the investigation progresses, but not because there’s a concern for public safety. “They have to do it in a methodical approach as they traverse that particular piece of property,” said Eldridge.

The work will come at no cost to the town, said Eldridge.

District 2 Town Councilor Steve Walker said the investigation appears to be more precautionary than anything else.

“I’m more concerned about what they might find under the quarry site,” said Walker, noting that the groundwater table in the area is quite high, and that he would be interested in an inventory as to what might be found.

The Navy continues to collect data in terms of groundwater monitoring, said Paul F. Burgio, an environmental coordinator with the Navy.

The Brunswick Town Commons predates both the U.S. Navy, as well as the United States itself. Originally 1,000 acres, the Commons was granted in 1719 from private lands belonging to the Pejepsco Company. Bowdoin College was built on a portion of that land.

In 1934, the town of Brunswick voted to establish an airport on the Commons.

When World War II broke out, the Navy acquired the quarry area along with the rest of the property that was once the majority of the Commons in order to train British Royal Navy pilots.

Over the ensuing decades, the quarry became a dumping ground for small discarded military items from training and disposal activities.

“Activities that took place at the quarry site generally occurred in the 1940s and 1950s,” said Burgio in an email to The Times Record. “Land farming to remediate petroleum-contaminated soil was known to have been conducted at the site from 1992 to 1995.”

The investigation at the Town Commons is expected to start Oct. 7.

However, the Navy may not be the only ones to have left debris at the Commons.

Harold Hutchinson, now retired, was Brunswick’s town engineer and public works director. He can recall a time when areas of the Town Commons was used as a dumping site by the public.

“They would dump everything,” Hutchinson said. “The public works crews spent days in there, cleaning up the area.”

The remaining 71 acres of the Commons is used as a recreational area for hiking, walking, cross-country skiing and bird watching.


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