GARDINER — Communities and organizations across Maine have been awarded more than $24.2 million in federal funds to help assess and clean up both contaminated and blighted sites for future development.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funding is part of the larger $1.5 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law approved in November 2021 designed to invest in infrastructure across the United States.

A number of communities, including Gardiner and Waterville in Kennebec County, are each receiving $500,000 in Brownfields Assessment and Cleanup grants to address contaminated sites, known as brownfields, in the those communities.

The EPA also awarded grants from its Revolving Loan Fund that enable communities and organizations to provide loans or sub-grants to clean up brownfield sites. When the loans are repaid, EPA officials say, the loan amount is returned to the fund and made available to other borrowers.

Tracey Desjardins, Gardiner’s director of Economic and Community Development, said when applying for funds, communities had to identify the areas to be targeted for assessment.

Gardiner has been home to industry for more than two centuries, which has resulted in industrial pollution, particularly along the banks of Cobbosseecontee Stream. The EPA has identified more than a dozen brownfield sites across the city, according to an agency database.


City officials have identified the Cobbossee Corridor as a target for development in the city and the funds are expected to support the continuation of work that city officials started at the T.W. Dick site on Summer Street, which has been redeveloped into workforce housing and commercial use.

“These are going to be funds if someone is interested in purchasing property, (these assessment funds) are a good way to know what’s on the site,” she said.

Normally, she said, the grants are smaller, and not all communities seeking the funding received it.

“It’s a pretty cool thing for Gardiner to be successful,” she said. “We didn’t receive any last year.”

Evidence of industrial contaminants continue to crop up even though the source of the contamination may have stopped decades ago.

Most recently, workers excavating earth for the Bridge Street bridge replacement project found industrial pollutants in 2019, prompting the state Department of Environmental Protection to step in and clean up the contaminated materials.


Close to the end of the cleanup project, the DEP had removed 3,700 tons of soil contaminated by No. 6 residual oil, the type of fuel that has been used in furnaces and boilers from the right of way under Bridge Street and a site just upstream from the bridge.

Among the suspected sources of the contamination was the former Gardiner Shoe Factory, which for decades operated on Water Street, just upstream from the Bridge Street bridge.

If developers are interested in potential brownfields sites, Desjardins said, the funding would be available to investigate whether remediation would be needed.

“We’d be able to promote that to people, that if people are interested in purchasing property, this is a good way to know what’s on the site and find out if there’s going to be any issues.”

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