Some of the funds Sanford has received from a grant award from the EPA will go to an assessment of the structural integrity and possible future uses of the long-defunct International Woolens mill on Heritage Drive. Sanford has been awarded $800,000 from the EPA for various assessment, planning and cleanup projects. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

SANFORD — The city of Sanford has been awarded an $800,000 multi-purpose grant from the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection Agency for planning, assessment, and cleanup of old industrial sites.

Most of the sites to be targeted are in the general area of Sanford’s downtown mill district, said Sanford Planning Director Beth Della Valle.

“We’re absolutely thrilled,” Della Valle said on Wednesday, soon after the award from the EPA’s Brownfields program was announced.

She said the resulting impact will be widespread.

“The mill district is not an entity into itself. The downtown and east side neighborhood are all intertwined,” she said.

Word of the grant came from the EPA and U.S Senators Susan Collins and Angus King at mid-afternoon, and was one of several awarded in Maine. In all, $6 million was awarded statewide to assess and cleanup 14 sites, the two senators said in a joint statement — more funding than any other state in the country this year.

Among other Maine sites receiving an award was Marble Block Redevelopment Corporation in Biddeford. Their $500,000 grant will be used to clean up the WestPoint Stevens Mill Boiler House.

“The Brownfields Program has proven to be a major benefit to the overall health and vitality of Maine communities,” said Senators Collins and King in the statement. “In addition to cleaning up hazardous substances and improving our environment, this investment will help communities create new economic development opportunities to attract businesses that create good jobs for Mainers, particularly in rural areas.”

Some of the money from the award will be used on the Stenton Trust mill, Della Valle said, to perform a final assessment and cleanup once the EPA has finished removing asbestos from the front tower of the River Street mill and demolishing the rear tower, which was gutted by an arson fire in 2017. The asbestos removal and demolition is being conducted by the EPA under a different program.

Once the final cost of cleanup is known, she said, the city would acquire the property and continue to work with an unnamed developer eyeing redevelopment of the front tower.

Another mill building on the city’s list for assessment of its structural soundness and possible future uses  is the former International Woolen property on Heritage Drive. Built in 1924, the mill has been vacant for many years.

One property that isn’t in the mill district but poised for further cleanup through the grant is the former CGA property on New Dam Road, once the site of a circuit board recycling operation that was abandoned in the early 1990s. The city acquired the property in 2010.

While the state Department of Environmental Protection stepped in two years ago to clean up the mounds of circuit boards on the CGA site, some material remains. A prior assessment shows that some contaminants from circuit boards has leached into the soil in some places over the decades. Della Valle described the leaching as “sporadic.”

“The good news is that is didn’t go into the groundwater,” said Della Valle.

The city plans to move the contaminated material to one area of the property, tamp it down, cover it with clean soil and stabilize it with vegetation. The spot would be off-limits to development. The remainder is of the 17-acre CGA site is poised for redevelopment as a solar farm.

Energy from that site along with a planned solar array on the site of the old Rushton Street landfill creates a virtual grid, Della Valle said, with the city committing the energy created for uses in the mill district. That in itself could be a marketing tool, she pointed out.

“This is Sanford’s time,” said Della Valle. She said two companies engaged in mill redevelopment have “knocked on her door” within the last two weeks. “What we’ve been expecting is starting to happen.”

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or [email protected]

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