WILTON — Movement is steady but slow in making the Forster Mill on Depot Street, which closed in 2003, an environmentally safe memory.

About $75,000 so far has been allocated for the mill’s demolition.

A downtown grant sets aside $50,000 that will go toward improvements.

“We’ve got about $25,000 to go to improving the gateway location there, and $25,000 that will go towards demolition,” Town Manager Rhonda Irish said Tuesday. Town Meeting voters also approved $25,000 toward the mill’s demolition last week.

It will cost about $250,000 to $300,000 to raze the 235,000-square-foot building.

The vacant, crumbling, sprawling four-story building has been an issue in town since it closed as a working mill and was bought by Adam Mack through Wilton Recycling LLC. Since then, it’s gone through a series of increasingly serious crises, including a major asbestos finding, culminating in the town taking it over through foreclosure this spring.

At last week’s Town Meeting, selectman Tom Saviello, who is also a state representative, called it his “biggest disappointment” in his four terms on the town board.

However, the town slowly is making progress toward the mill’s demolition.

It continues to be part of the Brownfields program run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection, and the assessment phase of that program might be done within weeks.

“What we are doing are all the environmental checks on the site,” Irish said.

She said the first phase included a hazardous-materials inventory completed through DEP. The results are starting to come in now, and Irish said it should be completed by July 10.

“After that, we’re going to go into phase II and possibly an analysis of Brownfield cleanup alternatives,” she said. “If all that looks good, then in the fall if it looks like we qualify, then I’m going to apply for the Brownfield cleanup grant through the EPA.”

Irish said what the EPA will be looking into in phase II is potential seepage into the ground from when the building was a woolen mill.

“I’m checking to see if we are going to go through the state of Maine on phase II or whether we’ll be going (through the) Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments,” which just received a $200,000 assessment grant from the EPA.

“As far as inside the building, there is still asbestos in the building,” she said, though $100,000 worth of asbestos already has been removed, there’s still the possibility of it in the ceilings.

She also said some containers must be checked for hazardous materials and polychlorinated biphenyl.

“Thankfully, there have been these programs that we have been able to go through and to make sure the hazardous materials have been abated correctly,” Irish said.

Wilton Woolen Mills closed in the 1950s and the building was bought by Forster Manufacturing Co. in 1960. In 1992 Advent International of Boston bought the mill, and in 1995 the mill was bought by Diamond Brands before being bought by Jarden Corp., which closed the plant in spring of 2003.

Mack bought the building after that and presented a demolition plan to the town in 2011 because he had not been able to sell it after several years of trying.

Demolition of the building was halted in 2011 when workers discovered asbestos. The mill hadn’t been inspected for the presence of asbestos before demolition work began, a violation of DEP rules. While cleaning up the remaining mess, an asbestos removal expert called it the worst asbestos site he had seen in Maine in 30 years.

Before the workers doing the demolition reported the violations, Downeast Construction, owned by Ryan Byther, removed piping worth an estimated $250,000 from the site and sold it. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration levied a $154,200 fine for Byther’s company’s actions, and the company was removed from the project.

In November 2012, Mack’s company, Wilton Recycling, was ordered to pay a $7,500 penalty to the state for the company’s role in exposing employees to the asbestos hazard.

A town lawsuit against Mack, attempting to force him to finish the demolition, was dropped when the town took over the building through tax foreclousure.

Douglas McIntire — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @CD_McIntire


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