Ransom Engineering environmental engineer Steve Dyer and project manager Jaime Madore said Jan. 23, the ash pond cleanup project at Mason Station is entering its design phase, and they expected the work to start this spring and be done by fall. The public meeting at the Wiscasset town office was a requirement of grant funding from the Environmental Protection Agency. The project was the subject of two EPA brownfields cleanup grants, each for $200,000. Previous public meetings on the project were lightly attended, and this one was no different. Only the town manager and his assistant, one selectman, a Department of Environmental Protection representative, and Wiscasset Newspaper attended.
Dyer said the work was being done due to both a “perceived” and real environmental issue stemming from the ash pond sludge, there since the power plant shut down in 1991. After the property was bought by National RE/sources/Point East LLC to build a subdivision on the point, an early assessment was made in 2004 by Jake Wilford to identify issues that would have to be addressed before housing could be built there. That assessment led to many corrections, including removing oil tanks, contaminated soils and some building contaminants, and other items, to build the proposed Point East housing development. It also identified other issues that had not been corrected, including asbestos in some small outbuildings, significant problems in the plant, and contamination in the coal ash ponds.
The Point East Maritime Village development failed after the housing bubble burst in 2008. A series of other suggestions for the site, including a coal-fired power plant, also went nowhere and the town took several of the parcels in lieu of tax payments. In conjunction with the Lincoln County Regional Planning Office, the town received grants to assess the properties the town now owned. In 2016, Ransom Engineering did an assessment that included test pits for testing soil samples, soil vapor testing, and water testing. The biggest area of concern were the four coal ash ponds, and some minor issues with asbestos and other contaminants in a maintenance building and pump house.
The grants will address the coal ash ponds and the asbestos and other contaminants in the two outbuildings. The grants require the town to invest in the project in-kind or financially. The town went with in-kind, which will largely come from salaries and use of vehicles.
The plan involves removing the water from the ponds, drying out the sediments and removing the sediments and the liners and disposing of them at a site for contaminated materials offsite. The soil below the liners will also be tested for contamination. Soil will be added and graded, making the land available for development. Finally, the contaminants will be removed from the outbuildings. Dyer said dust control and erosion control would be a priority during the work. He said they were fortunate there are few residents in the area.
Dyer said Ransom had performed some cleanup work in the power plant, as a result of DEP requirements, but that the plant still has significant contamination inside. The town owns approximately 78 parcels, including the ones with the ash ponds. Most of the parcels have been rehabilitated already by the previous owner; some parcels on the north side of the power plant still need work, especially those previously used as a dump. However, the rehabilitation of the coal ash pond areas will mean the entire southern part of the point will be able to be developed.