Search on for pollutants at old factory

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NORWAY – An environmental consultant will conduct a study of the old corn canning factory site on Lake Road to determine if identified contaminants have impacted the property.

Campbell Environmental Group of Falmouth was hired by the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments under a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields Program last year to conduct an environmental assessment of the former factory site at 61 Lake Road and the adjacent C.B. Cummings & Sons lumber yard, also known as Cummings Landing. The properties are owned by Norway businessman John Longley.

The two-phase environmental site assessment project includes an historical and records review of the property to determine what activities occurred on the site that potentially could have caused contamination. Company President Rich Campbell said this step, which was recently completed, ruled out the Cummings Landing site but revealed potential hazards at the corn shop site. Because of this, the site is now undergoing the second phase, where groundwater and soil will be sampled to determine if contamination impacted the property.

“We found nothing at Cummings Landing,” Campbell said this week of the first phase of the project. However, the corn shop investigation revealed what he called “potential recognized environmental conditions.”

“Any industrial site is considered guilty until proven innocent,” Campbell said.

Campbell and his group will concentrate on several identified areas of concern including in the vicinity of the scale house where kerosene drums were kept, the mechanized equipment, the area of the boathouse where 55-gallon drums are located, the solder oven leach fields, storm drains, floor drain and an area where the liquids within the sumps were drained.

“We do environmental detective work,” he said.

The Environmental Protection Agency created the Brownfields program to encourage their development of properties such as the Bates Mill in Lewiston. A brownfield is defined by the EPA as “real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of hazardous substances, pollutant or contaminants.” If contamination is identified, sites usually enter the Department of Environmental Protection’s Voluntary Response Action program, which will have oversight of any recommended remediation.

Although no funds are available for cleanup under the program, liability releases will be issued by the DEP under the Voluntary Response Action program to a lending facility when the property is reused. “If there is a problem, not acknowledging it won’t help anyone,” said Wilkes Harper of the DEP.

The former corn shop is on about 2.5 acres between Route 118 and Lake Pennesseewassee just west of the downtown business district. The building was used as a corn canning facility from 1881 to the 1950s.

“This is the perfect site to describe the unfortunate situation Maine has gone through,” said Campbell of the corn canning industry that left Maine in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s for the West when more efficient canning methods were found. Campbell said Maine was previously favored for the corn canning industry because it had a day or two more growing period than other areas that allowed it to be picked and canned at a slightly slower rate while retaining its sweetness. Once people found a way to can it differently while retaining the sweetness, the industry left Maine.

“The operations ended, then there was usually a fire,” said Campbell of the end result of many canning operations in Maine. Such was the fate of the corn shop when the main building burned in 1962. It was rebuilt in 1963 and has since been used for a variety of purposes, including a warehouse storage facility for Central Maine Power, a vehicle fueling station for the Region 11 Vocational School and woodworking and metals shops.

Campbell, along with Janet Pelletier and Fergus Lea of AVCOG, and Harper of the DEP, met with selectmen last week during a public hearing where the results of Phase 1 were revealed, and to explain how Phase 2 of the project will proceed.

Longley was not available for comment this week, but board members said they were pleased with the opportunity to make the property more marketable.

Another hearing is expected to take place to inform the public of the findings from the Phase 2 investigation.

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