HARPSWELL — Work is underway on the removal of 7.25 miles of fuel pipeline along Route 123, a milestone for a four-year effort to restore land to property owners and eliminate a potential environmental hazard.
On Tuesday, about a dozen town officials and advocates for pipeline removal gathered at Lookout Point Road for a ceremonial groundbreaking.
The buried pipeline, marked by orange reflective tape and yellow warning signs, stretches from Brunswick Naval Air Station south to Mitchell Field, the former U.S. Navy fuel depot.
The $3.2 million removal project will dig up the asbestos-coated pipes. According to Town Administrator Kristi Eiane, the pipeline has already been removed from Mitchell Field.
The contract was awarded to Charter Environmental of Wilmington, Mass., by the Navy.
Len Freeman, a member of the town’s pipeline committee, said the beginning of the removal is significant because it means abutters will eventually reclaim their full property rights.
“People ought to know that our local government is doing things to help,” Freeman told the gathering.
Amy Haible, the former chairwoman of Board of Selectmen, is largely credited with energizing the removal effort. In 2006, Haible helped establish the Pipeline Easement Advisory Committee, which petitioned the state’s congressional delegation to convince the Navy to return a 30-foot wide easement and right-of-way to abutters.
The pipeline is buried 4 feet below ground and crosses several privately owned properties. It was conveyed to the town in 2001.
The return of land was just one motivator for the project. Also driving it were potential health and safety liabilities associated with asbestos-coated pipes.
According to a release from town officials, the congressional delegation arranged meetings with officials from the Navy and Department of Defense to convince them that removal of the pipeline removal was their responsibility.
The project will take about a year to complete. After that, the federal government’s easement will expire and the property will be returned to landowners along the right of way in Brunswick and Harpswell.
A full schedule of the pipeline removal can be downloaded at Charterenvironmental.sharefile.com.
Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or email@example.com