HOPE — Neighbors have purchased property that was the site of one of the worst environmental disasters in Maine history.

Bruce Melanson and Leslie Robinson received a quit claim deed on Oct. 2 from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for the 12.5 acres that had been the site of the Union Chemical Company plant.

The plant produced paint strippers in an old church starting in 1967, but later expanded and accepted and incinerated used petrochemical-based solvents. A citizens group, led by neighbors, urged the state to take action and the company eventually closed in 1984.

When the state stepped in after the closure, it discovered about 2,000 barrels of solvents and 30 storage tanks containing hazardous wastes on the property which had contaminated the soil and groundwater.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection have spent about $20 million over the past 30 years to reduce the environmental risks from the site.

The property was declared a Superfund site, a classification it held until 2018.

In June 2015, Hope voters rejected on a 33-28 vote a proposal to acquire the property.

The DEP received court approval last year to market and sell the property.

Bruce Melanson said Wednesday, Oct. 16 that he and Robinson have no immediate plans for the property.

He said the couple wanted the land mostly because it allows them access to land they own in back of the former Union Chemical property. That access has been blocked since they inherited the back adjoining property in 1985 because of state restrictions on use of the property.

Melanson and Robinson live across Route 17 from the site. He said he moved there after the plant had closed.

Earlier this year, the town of Camden had also bid on the property, hoping to create a solar farm. The state, however, accepted the Melanson/Robinson higher bid. Camden Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell said earlier this year she was told that the state accepted a bid that offered the full $60,000, the state had sought for the property.


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