Camden Town Manager’s report: Identify and assess wool, tannery waste along Megunticook River

Old waste, debris on Camden’s Tannery Park river bank slows redevelopment process

Fri, 05/03/2019 - 2:45pm

    CAMDEN — The Tannery Park, on Washington Street, was once the site of a woolen mill and leather tannery. Its soil has been partially remediated with Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields grant funds and with town money, and language for a request for proposals for its redevelopment has been crafted; however, Camden’s planning director Jeremy Martin informed the town manager and select board in a recent memo that more assessment needs to be done concerning a portion of the Megunticook River bank to reduce risk.

    “It is our intent to temporarily delay the RFP and work with environmental consultants and [Maine Department of Environmental Protection] MEDEP to determine the appropriate approach moving forward,” he wrote in a memo to the board and manager. “For example, it is critical that the Town of Camden identify MEDEP’s position regarding the lawfulness of the current disposition of these materials on the property with respect to Maine solid waste disposal regulations.”

    His memo, posted below, is included in the May 3 report of Camden Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell.

    Her report, which precedes the May 7 Select Board meeting, also discusses recent municipal business in several departments. It is posted here, as well.

    Town Manager’s Office:

    • I like to thank all the Department Heads, Staff and Select Board members for being so helpful and supportive of one anther while I was out on vacation. You all did a great job keeping things moving along. I’m happy to be in back in Maine after 3 weeks of visiting friends and family in Australia; despite the chilly, rainy spring weather!

    • Wastewater Superintendent, David Bolstridge, and I have been working with USDA Rural Development to try and secure grant funding for the upgrades to the Wastewater Treatment Plant and portions of the collection system. Currently Camden is ineligible for grant funding because taxpayers pay for the debt service on capital projects as opposed to Wastewater rate payers. The purpose of USDA RD’s grant program is to stabilize rates for Wastewater customers. If the Wastewater Department and the Town enter into a recapture agreement whereby the Department reimburses the Town for debt service on the plant upgrades the Town will be eligible for approximately $1 million to $1.5 million in grant funds.
    • A meeting of the EMS Review Committee was postponed until next week in order to give Northeast Ambulance Services and the Managers/Administrators of Camden, Hope, Lincolnville and Rockport the opportunity to discuss a renewal of the current agreement between the Town’s and Northeast.
    • As described in the attached memo from the Planning and Development Director the Town will be doing additional environmental assessment work on the riverbank of the former Tannery property. The need for this additional environmental assessment has necessitated putting planning for the clean up of the rest of the site, including any work on an RFP to seek proposals for the redevelopment of the site, on hold.
    • Assessing: Assessors are responsible for the administration and enforcement of current use program properties. Until recently we were on our own, which worked fine for Farmland and Open Space, but not so well for Tree Growth. Most assessors don’t possess degrees in Forestry. A recent revision in the Tree Growth statutes allows us to seek the assistance of the Maine Forest Service (MFS).

    Tree Growth property is taxed at a significantly lower rate than it would be otherwise. In exchange they have to manage their property in accordance with the Forest Management Plan that was developed approved for the property. I had doubts that a particular Tree Growth participant was fulfilling their end of the contract. Statute allows assessors to enter a property to check for compliance. Until recently we had to do this on our own.

    I contacted MFS, sent them the appropriate paperwork, and then notified the property owner that we would soon be walking their parcel to check for compliance. Caitlin and I were accompanied by MFS’s Director of Forest Policy & Management, Acting Field Team Leader, and a District Forester. We found no evidence of compliance.

    Once I received MFS’s report, I removed the parcel from Tree Growth. The penalty is substantial, but statute permits the property owner to avoid the penalty by shifting the land into the Open Space program, where it must stay for a minimum of 10 years. Open Space does not provide for as substantial a value break as does Tree Growth. I have given the property owner that option and a short deadline to decide. I have not yet heard back.

    • Maine Revenue Services just finished its annual audit of our assessment records. Maine Revenue’s purpose is to make sure we are properly administering tax law and the many programs we oversee, and to determine our certified ratio. The preliminary calculation for our ratio is 93%. It was 97% after our reval two years ago. A 93% ratio shows that our real estate values are increasing.

    • CAI, our online database, has been updated. For some reason, not all of the updates successfully transferred. We’re working with CAI to iron out the wrinkles, but the overwhelming majority of the database is now updated.
    • Opera House: Dagney Ernest has just completed her first month, and we have three new committee members (Kristen Lindquist, Kathleen Brown and Roland Findlay), and a new committee chair in Beth O’Conner. We’re working hard for Jazz in June, and working on the 2020 calendar.

    Fire Department:

    • Inspections for Lodging & Victulers licenses are in full swing for the spring
    • Reminder for people who are in need of open burn permits that they are available online at
    • Firefighter Beveridge coordinated an automobile extraction training session for the Department
    • in collaboration with Steve Laite at Camden Exxon, Rockport Fire and Rockland EMS
    • Firefighter Heath completed the Emergence Program at the Center for Homeland Defense andEMS to the Hope Select Board
    • Security. He did an great job co-presenting the collaborative, municipal approach to providing
    • AC Lowe did good work coordinating the mutual aid response to a building fire last week on
    • Molyneaux Road
    • We are working with the Director of the Ski Patrol to find a way to support a local group ofwish to offer the support the group needs
    • technical rescue (high angle, cave, etc) people after our EMS provider decided they no longer
    • Chief is attending a conference of the Volunteer & Combination Officers Section of the
    • International Association of Fire Chiefs with Chiefs from around the country


    To: Select Board, Audra Caler-Bell, Town Manager From: Jeremy Martin, Planning and Development Director Date: May 3, 2019
    Re: Tannery Update

    Over the past month, it came to our attention that significant quantities of surface wastes and other industrial waste and debris from the woolen mill and tannery operations can be visually observed along a significant portion of the river bank at the town-owned tannery property. These conditions were not specifically identified or evaluated, as part of previous environmental assessments completed for the Site, appearing to have been out of the scope of those prior assessments, and represent a new condition/exposure hazard that warrants further evaluation.

    Based on the observed conditions, the materials could present physical and chemical hazards to users of the river corridor if not properly evaluated and addressed.

    To that end, it is in the best interest of the public and the Town of Camden to further assess the conditions observed along the river bank in order to ensure any physical and or chemical hazards associated with these conditions are addressed as part of the broader redevelopment initiative.

    Therefore, it us our intent to temporarily delay the RFP and work with environmental consultants and MEDEP to determine the appropriate approach moving forward. For example, it is critical that the Townof Camden identify MEDEP’s position regarding the lawfulness of the current disposition of these materials on the property with respect to Maine solid waste disposal regulations.

    Additionally, any potential residual chemical and physical hazards associated with these materials or in the soils around the materials must be addressed during the redevelopment activities pursued for the Site.

    Public exposure is an issue that we simply cannot ignore, since we encourage people to recreate along the Riverwalk trail and have a perpetual trail easement held by the Coastal Mountains Land Trust that provides uncontrolled recreational access to the water’s edge via at least six water access foot paths.This industrial debris and waste may pose a significant hazard and public safety issue in terms of the physical and chemical characteristics of the waste and debris.

    The extent of this issue immediately adjacent to the resource has never fully been identified or assessed and is unknown. What is known, is that there are layers of waste and debris of unknown depth and quantity that have been observed to include (but not limited to): debris containing sharp rusted metal lathes; barrels; steel drums; miscellaneous metal and glass objects; woolen mill and leather tannery waste; and, old building materials (i.e. siding and roofing materials.)

    Again, the extent of this material has never been fully identified and assessed other than having been defined as solid waste.

    There has been limited sampling of the soil in this immediate area and there has been no evaluation and sampling of the waste materials, nor has there been any investigation as to the extent and volume of the material itself. Therefore, further identification and assessment of the river bank area is warranted to ensure current/future public safety, determine whether remedial measures should be incorporated into the redevelopment plans for the Site, and limit the Town of Camden’s potential risk liabilities moving forward.