WILTON — Those who gathered Thursday to celebrate completion of the Brownfields cleanup process at the former Wilton Tannery and its redevelopment as Wilson Stream Business Park LLC saw it as a Maine success story.

Sometimes nothing is done with a site after it is cleaned, Amy Jean McKeown of the Environmental Protection Agency in Boston said. It is different in this case — the site was assessed and cleaned, and it is now being redeveloped and businesses are coming in, she said.

The new property owners, John and Corey Black, will move their worm farm to the tannery space.

Rep. Russell Black, R-Wilton, who is also John’s father, announced to the group that over the winter, space for Nichols Trailers will be constructed. A display for trailer sales will be created and trailer manufacturing is also planned for the site, he said.

In addition, renovations are underway to add a telecommunications business, where people who do not have access to high-speed Internet can go to use a computer or fax for a few hours, he said.

A Portland company is also expected to install a solar farm over the now-grassy spot where hazardous materials from the tannery were once buried, he said.  That part of the 15-acre property cannot be used for much else, he said.

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Years ago, the land was a farm — then the tannery was built, Black said. The tannery provided good-paying jobs, but we didn’t realize it created a harvest of hazardous waste, he said.

Black remembered hunting on the property, where hides covered the land next to Temple Stream, leaching chemicals and toxic waste into the water, he said.

A former Wilton selectman said the town took the property in 2010 for nearly $75,000 in unpaid taxes. Black admitted the project was scary, but now he sees its potential.

“John and Corey have the ambition to move ahead,” he said. “It will take hard work and money, but I see jobs here again.”

It would have been safer and easier to look the other way and not do anything, Town Manager Rhonda Irish said of the town taking the property. But town officials didn’t realize the extent of cleanup needed, she said.

Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments received Brownfields grant funding at that time which helped with phase 1 and 2 of the assessments, she said.

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An Environmental Protection Agency grant of $200,000 enabled the cleanup process to begin. Piles of leather straps, barrel staves and other materials, 12 to 15 feet high, were hauled from Wilson Stream to a spot on the eastern side of the property, said Nicholas Sabatine from Ransom Environmental of Portland, which engineered the project. 

An additional $150,000 came from Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, which funded removal of an oil tank and abatement of asbestos on the inside of the building.

The actual work was completed in 2014 by a local crew from E.L. Vining & Son, he said. Some additional site work was done last spring, but the project is now ready to use, albeit with some conditions.

It is also ready to go back on the town’s tax rolls, he said. 

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