SANFORD — The 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government has delayed the cleanup of a giant abandoned mill building that burned more than 18 months ago in an arson fire.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s cleanup of the Stenton Trust mill is now scheduled to move forward this spring with removal of asbestos in the front tower, called Tower A, with a tentative May 1 start of demolition of the rear tower that burned on June 23, 2017, according to an EPA spokesman.

The projected timeline has shifted a couple of times, from the summer of 2018, to the fall, and then to January. But the federal government shutdown that commenced at midnight on Dec. 22 and wound down on Jan. 25 put an end to plans for a January start.

EPA Region 1 spokesman Dave Deegan said residents will see activity around the site next month.

“One of the upcoming steps is that in March, EPA will install a pipe from the water line in the road to the site to get access to water, which will be required for asbestos removal activities,” Deegan wrote in an email. “After the pipe is installed and for several weeks in the spring, when the asbestos removal activities will occur, residents will see people in white suits and respirators entering the (front tower) building.”

He said there will be procedures in place to prevent any asbestos from being released from the building during removal, including wetting down the materials and creating a negative pressure environment within the space in which contractors will be working. He said the EPA also will work closely with federal public health officials throughout the project, to ensure that activities conducted at the site do not pose health or safety concerns to the public.

Deegan said the demolition of the rear tower will take approximately four to six months.

The contractor overseeing the project for the EPA is Environmental Restoration LLC. The company has previously performed work for the EPA in a number of regions, and is headquartered in St. Louis with regional offices in a number of U.S. cities, including Boston. Deegan said the contractor will be hiring several subcontractors for different phases of the project, in accordance with federal contracting guidelines.

Deegan said the EPA has estimated the project could cost as much as $1.7 million.

As to the delay, Deegan said the EPA was not working during the shutdown and so couldn’t resolve a pending access issue, which has now apparently been dealt with, and that contractors could not work during the shutdown without EPA oversight.

City Manager Steve Buck told the Sanford City Council last week that he met with EPA site coordinator Christine Young, who was at the site in mid-February with an asbestos abatement company and a structural engineer.

He said Young told him that a temporary road will be installed for access by Central Furniture to their warehouse, located on High Street. Currently, a portion of the warehouse can be reached only through the Stenton Trust lot. Once the demolition project is complete, the temporary roadway will be removed, Buck said.

City leaders have long said that a developer has expressed interest in the front tower, which is closest to River Street. Buck told the council that the Maine Historic Preservation Office has confirmed that front tower can qualify as historic due to its architecture, paving the way for potential historic tax credits. A saw tooth roof building between the two towers is too damaged to be preserved and will be demolished along with the rear tower.

Buck said once work begins, no further parking will be allowed on the site.

The arson fire that left the rear tower a skeleton of steel and concrete was so massive, it consumed 750,000 gallons of water. More than 100 firefighters from Sanford and several surrounding departments fought the blaze.

Three young boys, who were 12 and 13 years old at the time, were originally charged with arson in connection with the fire, and each later admitted to the lesser charge of criminal mischief and was placed on probation for a year.

Sanford’s assessing website lists Gateway Properties LLC as the owner, though the corporation, owned by Jonathan Morse of Reno, Nevada, no longer exists. Morse purchased the building in 1999 for $600,000, city records show. Current assessment for the property, including 6.8 acres of land, is $200,000. Property taxes have been unpaid for several years, and exceed $110,000.

Deegan said as work commences, an EPA trailer will be stationed at the front of the site.

“Residents can stop by the EPA trailer to ask questions and to get additional information throughout the demolition activities,” he said.

Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or at:

[email protected]

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