Soil contamination delays purchase of Harpswell waterfront property

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HARPSWELL — The town’s planned $85,000 purchase of waterfront property is being delayed, in part because of evidence the soil is contaminated.

The Board of Selectmen on Monday agreed with Dain Allen, owner of the nearly 6,000-square-foot property, to extend the closing deadline to Jan. 30, 2014. The purchase was approved by voters in November.

The original closing deadline was Dec. 31. Selectmen have been seeking the purchase to help protect and maintain waterfront access.

Board Chairwoman Elinor Multer said the purchase was delayed to give Allen extra time to remove personal property from the parcel, which abuts the Lookout Point town landing in Harpswell Neck.

She said there’s also a title company recommendation to obtain a release deed from Dain’s ex-wife, Barbara D’Onofrio.

In addition, selectmen are seeking clarification on a follow-up investigation by Portland-based Ransom Consulting that found that the soil on the property has been “impacted by volatile and semi-volatile petroleum constituents.”

The $7,000 price tag of the follow-up investigation will be shared by Allen and the town if the sale goes through.

Ransom is expected to present its findings at the selectmen’s meeting on Thursday. The follow-up investigation comes after the company’s initial report found that there was potential soil contamination in the land.

According to the newly released report, Ransom said no further investigation is required, in part, because “no contaminants of concern (above state guidelines) were detected in surficial soil samples collected at the site at concentrations.”

However, the environmental consultant is recommending the town submit the new soil contamination report to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Voluntary Response Action Program, or VRAP.

If the town is approved for the program, VRAP would provide liability protection for the waterfront property.

In exchange, the town would likely have to create a soil management plan “to insure proper mitigation, characterization, handling, and management of contaminated soils,” according to Ransom.

Ransom also recommends incorporating a “vapor barrier and/or passive sub-slab depressurization system” into any future building projects on the southwestern portion of the land.

“Vapor mitigation systems would likely mitigate potential impacts to indoor air quality,” the report said, “from potential vapor intrusion of volatile compounds identified in soil and soil vapor samples collected at the site if the contaminated soil were to remain in place.”

Selectmen originally sought the land after Allen offered it for $7,000 less than its assessed value of $92,000.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.