Maine’s Forester Mill Asbestos Cleanup Estimates Are In

Illustration of potential asbestos exposure in a building

Two environmental cleanup options have been proposed for the Town of Wilton’s Forester Mill, ranging from $900,000 to $1.8 million. The mill will need to be remediated and demolished per the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) orders.

A public hearing was held Tuesday night to discuss the two options. The first would cover asbestos abatement, removal of hazardous materials, demolition, excavation of contaminated soil, and replacement with clean fill. According to Tracy Kelly of the Main DEP, all of that work would cost $900,000 to $1.2 million.

With the second option, the building would still be remediated and demolished; however, the contaminated soil would not be removed, but rather capped. That would cost $1.2 to $1.8 million.

The first option “would be a little more reliable because if you do find contaminants under the building, you have removed (them),” said Kelly.

Interestingly enough, a report released this summer showed Maine is the state with the country’s largest rate of mesothelioma cancer due to asbestos exposure.

The Town Manager Rhona Irish will submit three $200,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant applications for brownfields funding. All three require the Town of Wilton to match $40,000 for each.

“We’re either going to come up with it on the cost share end or leveraging end… just to make sure the whole project does get completed,” said Irish.

The brownsfields program is run by the Maine DEP and EPA. Inclusion in the program called for two phases of environmental assessments. The first surveyed asbestos and other hazardous materials. The abatement was then estimated at $200,000.

Phase two made the discovery that yes, some underground areas don’t have hazardous contaminant levels, but some do around a 100,000-gallon storage tank. Plus, hazardous compounds were found in the river that runs under the mill.

Although the Forester Mill has been vacant since 2013, it wasn’t foreclosed until spring of 2014 because owner Adam Mack didn’t comply with the order of demolition. The Town of Wilton then seized the mill and its land after Mack filed bankruptcy and didn’t pay his taxes on the property.

“The mill has been a long problem and a recent acquisition,” said Irish.

Unfortunately, the amount of contaminants in the ground under the mill can’t be known until the mill is demolished, which would cost $600,000. Typically, demolishing buildings isn’t included in brownfields funding. But in this particular case it may due to the circumstances.

The EPA brownsfield grant funding will be announced in April.