SOUTH PORTLAND — Ransom Environmental Consultants will be assessing sites and properties within South Portland as part of the $300,000 cleanup grant the city received earlier this year.

The City Council unanimously approved the consulting company to assist with the Brownfields Assessment Program on Dec. 10.

City Manager Scott Morelli said that South Portland is one of several communities in Maine that has received a Brownfields Assessment Grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this year. The grant involves hiring a Qualified Environmental Professional to assist in assessing potential hazardous sites, which would then be cleaned and developed into usable properties.

According to the minutes from the meeting, $200,000 of the grant is for hazardous substances and $100,000 is for petroleum.

Morelli said that the city has formed a Brownsfield Advisory Committee to complete the program, and the committee’s recommendation was to hire the lowest bidder.

“Even though it’s a fixed amount in the contract, there’s a fee for service,” said Morelli. “It could exceed $100,000, very likely would. So that’s why your approval is required tonight. We had a request today from Ransom Environmental. We would refer to them as the QEP.”

Nicholas Sabatine, the principal and vice president of the company’s Portland office, answered the City Council’s questions about what the program requires.

“This is a community-wide assessment,” he said. “Typically, when we support a community, the EPA requires you focus on certain target areas. Even though this is community-wide, the target area discussed in the grant application was the waterfront along the Fore River. In programs like this, in the very onset of the programs, we do some windshield surveys, learn what properties are for sale that have signs, that might meet the definition of a brownfields, which is a site that has had past industrial history or perception of environmental contamination. It doesn’t mean it has to be contaminated, but perceived contamination. It could be any dilapidated old building — it could be a church or a school — all those buildings because sometimes it’s the actual building components that could be a hazard, such as asbestos.”

The brownsfield program is often used by building developers, as an environmental assessment is required when a property changes hands, said Sabatine.

“Like the city has already done, in the process of doing, you’ve created a Brownfields Advisory Committee,” he said. “Those folks will determine and prioritize sites within the community as to which sites get assessed. This program, even though it’s an EPA program, obviously has an environmental component to it — it’s almost as much an economic development tool as it is a tool to re-mediate and cleanup sites, but one of EPA’s tracking measures is to see that sites get put back to use and back on the tax rolls. So we’ll work with the committee to prioritize sites.”

Depending on the location, Sabatine said that would influence what types of chemicals or materials are tested for. For example, he said, if the site were along the river, which was used in Maine for industrial purposes, the program may test for metals and byproducts of petroleum.

The minutes for the meeting say that the program will complete four tasks: community outreach and engagement; phase I & II environmental assessments; cleanup and re-use planning; and general oversight of the cooperative agreement.

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