GREENWOOD — Voters may be asked to accept a one-acre contaminated dump site at the former Saunders Brothers wood mill so town and county officials can apply for a federal grant to clean it up.

“The town has to own the property,” Town Manager Kim Sparks said of the application process.

She said if the town votes to acquire the land later this year, there will be a provision that reverts the land back to its owner, Louise Jonaitis of Portland, if the grant is not received.

“We’re of course concerned. But if we don’t receive the grant, (the land) would revert back to her,” Sparks said.

In May, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that Maine will receive $3.8 million this year to clean up contaminated property to encourage redevelopment.

The 26.63-acre mill complex at 256 Mill St. in Locke Mills village included a 71,700-square-foot manufacturing and warehouse facility and a wood-turning and machine shop. Sparks said Jonaitis recently razed a large section of the buildings where wooden dowels and other products such as rolling pin handles, toy wheels and checkers were once manufactured.

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Jonaitis separated the one-acre parcel from the site in 2010 when she purchased the mill so it would not threaten any future sale.

Investigation of the contamination began around 2008 when the Maine Department of Environmental Protection required that the mill’s debris field be characterized and properly managed. Samplings done over two years showed 400 to 500 cubic yards of debris, including shingles, wood, ash, metal, glass and plastic. Arsenic, lead and other hazardous chemicals were detected.

Glen Holmes, executive director of the Western Maine Economic Development Council in Paris, said Tuesday that the council will assist the town with the grant application.

“It takes quite a bit. We’re just getting started,” Holmes said.

He said the council is involved because it is not in anyone’s economic interest to have a contaminated site in their town.

“Having a dirty site in a community is something we want to get cleaned up,” Holmes said.

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He said he hopes to get back to selectmen in July or August with more news about the application.

Harry and Arthur Saunders founded the company in 1900, establishing a dowel mill in North Waterford, according to the company website. After fire destroyed it in 1916, they moved to Westbrook, where the corporate headquarters remain.

Saunders Brothers began operating at the Greenwood mill in 1999 and bought the property in 2007 from Gilbert Wood Products of Westbrook.

According to information from town historian Blaine Mills, there has been a mill at the site since Samuel Locke, the namesake for the Locke Mills village, first established one in 1819.

Holmes said the fact that mills, and even a town dump, have been on the site for the past 200 years may make it all the more difficult to trace contamination over the years.

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