Funds to fight pollution

By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer

CASCO — The Tenney Hill site — which was polluted by waste oil in the 1980s — could yield a goldmine of environmental opportunities.

According to officials from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Town of Casco could likely receive $500,000 that it could grant to small businesses or residents for projects that protect the watershed from pollutants.

David Wright, the director of the DEP’s Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management, told the Casco Board of Selectmen on Tuesday that money collected from businesses disposing of waste oil will pay a fee into a kitty — that fund will be used to help with clean-up at an Ellsworth site.

But, in the case of Casco, where the ground water is irreparably damaged, the money will boost qualifying projects.

“What we are talking about is a cash settlement. At the legislature’s end, they need to approve it, start collecting the money, and then we hand it out,” Wright said.

“What we’ve come up with is a compromise. We need town help to move along,” he said.

The board can decide if the town wants the job of approving applications and tracking expenditures, or if the preference is to have an agency deal with doling out the money, Wright said.

Selectmen put the issue on a future workshop slated for March 15.

The board did not turn down the money. Instead, it was seeking more information in order to determine if the town should be responsible for administering the environmental grants.

Some examples of appropriate projects, according to Wright, include upgrading failing septic systems and helping a local garage with containment of and disposal of waste oils.

“Towns use the money to protect ground water,” he said. “It’d probably be given $100,000 at a time. Then, the town tracks expenditures, and gets more of the money.”

In a related presentation to the board, DEP Project Manager Kathy Howatt said the state wants to place a covenant on the land that was contaminated by the Portland Bangor Waste Oil Company.

The covenant would be placed with the Registry of Deeds; therefore, if someone purchased the land, there would be record of the tainted groundwater. In addition, the land could only be used for purposes that did not disturb the soil, she said.

“The prohibited activities would be upheld unless you got direct permission from the MDEP,” Howatt said.

“The uses would be prohibited except for open space. At present, the use is open space. There’s nothing happening up there. If the town wanted to put a recreational field there, that could be a use that would be acceptable to the department,” she said.

Howatt encouraged the town to work with the DEP on creating a list of possible uses for the property. The town could use the knowledge of employees who specialize in remediation and environmental pollutants.

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