South Portland hopes grant will help green brownfield sites
SOUTH PORTLAND — Officials applied Jan. 22 for a federal grant to assess contamination left behind by the city's industrial past.
Spread over three years, the $400,000 grant would be split in half to assess levels of contamination from petroleum and hazardous materials in areas on the waterfront, from Pleasantdale to Ferry Village, including Knightville.
Possible assessment sites are also close to Bug Light Park and the 5.7-mile Greenbelt pedestrian and bicycle path.
The application was made to Environmental Management Support, a consulting firm in Silver Spring, Md., hired by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to provide technical and analytical assistance to the agency's Brownfields and Land Revitalization program. It's most recent EPA contract was for $8.4 million in April 2013.
Assistant City Manager Jon Jennings on Wednesday said the consultants are there to process applications, without a fee to applicants.
"They have no role in the ranking of applications or selection of awardees," Jennings said in an email.
He said grant recipients will be notified in April or May, and the EPA typically distributes funds in October.
The EPA defines brownfields as sites that can be redeveloped or reused, although the process may be "complicated" by the presence of "a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant."
The application submitted by City Manager Jim Gailey places responsibility for developing the assessment program on Jennings. In his cover letter, Gailey said the plan is to assess and prioritize suspected brownfield sites.
Among sites noted in the application are the former South Portland Shipyard and Marine Railways, on seven waterfront acres at 257 Front St.; a 30-acre vacant lot on Casco Bay, where General Electric Co. operated a plant until the early 1980s, and the former South Portland Armory at 633 Broadway.
The application also cites the need to assess conditions in Pleasantdale and Ligonia, off Broadway and west of the Casco Bay Bridge, where petroleum companies including Irving Oil operate distribution facilities.
"The wide variety of brownfields in the City of South Portland suggests that an even wider variety of possible contamination may have been left behind at these abandoned commercial and industrial properties," the application said.
The laundry list of possible contaminants is varied, lengthy and possibly lethal. City officials suspect "chlorinated solvents, thinners, paints and degreasers" from "abandoned commercial and industrial properties."
At petroleum-related sites, the presence of "fuel oil, gasoline and waste oil-related compounds" is suspected, and the presence of lead paint, asbestos, and PCBs in soil, groundwater and building materials is anticipated.
City officials were unable to find specific statistics for South Portland, but pointed to public heath statistics showing higher-than-national-average incidences of asthma, cancer and cancer-related mortality rates to show the need for the grant.
Gailey and Jennings also said assessment and remediation of hazards would boost local tourism.
"Marinas, restaurants and other service industries do not realize their full potential as long as there are sites such as the run-down South Portland Shipyard and Marine Railways facility, and vacant boatyards along the waterfront," the report said.
If funding is approved, the assessment program would be established with a steering committee and a hired consultant to make the assessments and plan needed cleanups.
Included sites would require approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection and federal EPA, and face two phases of additional assessments before any cleanup begins. Six Phase II investigations are budgeted for hazardous materials and 10 Phase II investigations are budgeted for petroleum-related sites in the application.
"Our expected outcomes are to return the selected brownfield sites back to economic vitality or for the public’s use and enjoyment," the application said.
If funding is made available, it is expected the grant would leverage more money from state and federal agencies for needed cleanups, while local tax increment zone funds may also be available.