The small Maine town of South Windham received good — or bad — news, depending on whom you ask, last Thursday when it was reported that the proposed $15 million redevelopment project of an old mill secured funding for environmental cleanup efforts, according to the local Maine news source KeepMeCurrent.com.
The extensive plan, which would turn the old abandoned mill into a 109-unit housing project right on the Presumpscot River, is being moved forward by Hardypond Construction of Portland.
“The only reasonable reuse of the building is as an apartment complex,” said Bob Gaudreau, Hardypond Construction’s vice president. “I think Windham deserves this project. I really believe in this building.”
However, Gaudreau also admitted that the project was “not a light endeavor. It’s going to be done over many years.”
The construction company received a $360,000 loan from the Greater Portland Council of Governments’ Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund. The loan will be used for remediation services that will be required at the site before any work can be done on the new project.
The housing unit is expected to attract Millennials and retirees, but not everyone in the small town is excited about the prospect.
Some residents voiced their concern at a local meeting that was held to discuss the project, noting that the traffic in the area can already be troublesome. The new project, which includes a proposal to turn one connecting street into one-way only, might exacerbate problems.
Traffic concerns aside, the environmental remediation equipment that will be required is under debate as well. According to Ransom Consulting, an environmental engineering firm hired by Hardypond, there are a couple of options to deal with the low, but still potentially hazardous, levels of arsenic, petroleum, and lead found in the soil.
Removing contaminated soils and adding a one-foot layer of clean fill is one. Installing a cover system over the contaminated soils to prevent surface water from infiltrating the site and further spreading contaminants into the groundwater is the other that the developers are advocating for, as it will be less expensive.
The developers are open to public comment through Dec. 21 but appear to be moving forward with the redevelopment project.