GARDINER — Starting early next week, the state Department of Environmental Protection will oversee geoprobe borings near the Bridge Street bridge to try to identify the source of petroleum contamination.

When work started on the remediation project about a month ago, state environmental officials estimated the project would take a couple of weeks.

That estimate has changed.

“It’s a big remediation, and it’s turning into a fairly significant one,” David Madore, director of communications for the state DEP, said this week.

Once the borings are complete, he said, department officials will assess the next steps to be taken.

Madore said representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have reviewed the project, but as of the end of the week, no decision had been made on whether the agency will take part in the cleanup.

Workers have found No. 6 residual oil, which typically has been used in furnaces and boilers.

“It’s from a bygone era, forgotten or just buried,” Madore said. “The terrain is pretty rocky. We think it’s a tank. We haven’t seen a tank, but we think that’s what it might be. It’s speculative at this point.”

To date, he said, about 1,500 gallons of “free product” has been recovered and 3,500 tons of contaminated soil has been removed from the site. The DEP has spent about $400,000 on the work so far.

In Gardiner’s industrial past, Cobbosseecontee Stream was lined with mills and manufacturers, and some level of contamination was anticipated. Remediation is taking place next to the site of the former Gardiner Shoe factory, which was also the R.P. Hazzard Shoe Co. factory. A single-story, mixed-use office and retail building stands on the site now.

State employees survey oil leaking Tuesday on Arcade Street in Gardiner as a boom collects material in Cobbossee Stream. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

In July, remediation work started in the right-of-way underneath the Bridge Street bridge. Workers moved and cleaned large rocks and granite blocks. Containment and absorbent booms were deployed in the stream to keep pollutants contained. A hole has been excavated in the right-of-way, where a skimmer has been collecting the petroleum products floating on the water in the hole. The hole is about 5-feet deep, and between a half-inch to an inch of No. 6 residual oil is floating on the surface.

In March, the Department of Transportation and its contractor, Reed & Reed, started work on a two-year project to replace both the Bridge Street and Maine Avenue bridges, which cross Cobbosseecontee Stream just north of Gardiner’s historic downtown.

Oil is collected Monday beneath Bridge Street in Gardiner. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

In addition to the bridge replacements, the project calls for the addition of a pedestrian bridge crossing the stream parallel to the Maine Avenue bridge. That span was placed over the stream earlier this week, although it is not yet open to foot traffic.

As part of the project, the DEP reviewed site assessments provided by the DOT to see whether the construction sites were likely to have contamination.

“We have been trying to make sure we’re not in the DOT’s way, and we’re working independently,” Madore said.

The DOT did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The EPA also did not immediately return a request for comment.

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