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Contamination on Camden riverbank could be fenced off temporarily

By Susan Mustapich | Aug 07, 2020
A wide range of topics were discussed and decided on at the August 5 meeting of the Camden Select Board.

Camden — Fencing off areas with high levels of lead contamination along the riverbank at the town-owned property, formerly occupied by tanneries and woolen mills, the use of eminent domain to access the area for a sidewalk to Shirttail Point, the wastewater treatment plant budget and more were discussed at the Aug. 4 Select Board meeting.

Tannery property contamination and next steps

Planning and Development Director Jeremy Martin said a Request for Proposals for uses of the town-owned property at 116 Washington Street would be ready to roll out within two weeks. The board discussed this extensively at a June board meeting. The consensus at the time was that proposals for a wide variety of uses would be considered.

Invited speaker, Bryan Sladky of Silar Services of Phoenixville, Pa., provided a summary of the significance of extensive soil and water testing conducted on the property, riverbank and in the water in fall 2019.

Requiring treatment are levels of arsenic in surface soils in the upland portion of the property, the area favored in past discussions for a development of some type of building or facility. Soil cover is an acceptable treatment, according to Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A surface area on the riverbank, contaminated with high levels of lead, also requires treatment.

He and Martin had discussed using the site information to the best advantage of the town to give it the most flexibility on the use of funds, he said.

Sladky said the current Brownfields grant awarded to Camden could take care of the cost of a cover for the upland surface soils contamination.

He said the grant is not considered to be sufficient to cover costs of permitting and installation of a cover treatment for both the upland area and the contaminated riverbank areas, by the state and federal environmental agencies.

A temporary measure, such as fencing, is a solution for the riverbank, according to Sladky. The agencies will ask the town to use some of the Brownfields funds for that temporary fencing, he said.

The good news is lead contamination on the riverbank was not present in the water, based on samples taken, according to Sladky. The bad news is contaminants in the surface soil and soil below the surface exceed standards for each of these compounds, and in order to meet environmental requirements and get a closure for that area, they either have to be covered, removed or mitigated.

The summary prepared by Silar Services includes the recommendation for excavation of contaminated soils in the riverbank area, located 2 to 15 feet below the surface.

Wastewater Treatment budget approved

The Select Board approved a $1,541,150 wastewater budget, up 13% from the previous year. Wastewater service is paid for by user fees, which will see a 21% increase over the previous year.

The increase is primarily due to salary increases and increases in capital improvement budgets.

Select Board Chair Bob Falciani asked about the reason for the 9% salary increase, totaling $56,000.

Town Manager Audra Caler said town budgets reflect a staged increase in salaries for wastewater and public works departments, in an effort to be competitive with the private sector, when there is a need to hire town employees. She said in those two departments, hiring has either been difficult due to lower salaries the town pays for comparable jobs in the private sector, or the departments have lost employees who have moved to the private sector for higher wages. She said the town's health benefits and step-increases have not been enough to compete.

Falciani asked about a doubling to $200,000 of the amount budgeted for the wastewater upgrade interest payment reserve. Caler said these increased funds will be used to offset the costs of repaying the bond on the upcoming $13.9 million wastewater treatment plant upgrade.

Board Vice Chair Alison McKellar asked how Rockport residents, who use Camden's wastewater system, are billed. She asked if their rate is the same as the rate charged for Camden residents.

Board member Marc Ratner said he has learned that Rockport residents are seeing large increases in their wastewater bills.

Wastewater Department Superintendent David Bolstridge confirmed that Rockport and Camden residents pay the same rate for wastewater treated in Camden's plant.

Caler pointed out that Rockport's billing is more complicated than Camden's. Some Rockport residents use Camden's wastewater treatment system and others Rockland's wastewater treatment system. In addition, their bills include debt repayment for their own collection system, and an administration fee. She said people staying at home more due to COVID-19 is another factor in increasing wastewater bills. Another factor is drought, and the use of more water for lawns and gardens.

Wastewater billing is based on water use. Water use is measured by MaineWater, the local water company.

Board member Jenna Lookner asked about a conversation she saw on social media posted by a Camden resident who said their bill had increased by 100 percent, and asked  Bolstridge for an explanation of how that could occur.

Bolstridge said the most likely factor is increased irrigation.

Broadband

The Board agreed to pay up to $10,000 for a technical assessment and drafting of a request for proposals for the development of broadband services in Camden and Rockport. The two towns are working together to bring high-speed broadband internet service into the area.

Sagamore Farm

An approved survey of the 77-acre town-owned property off of Route 1 has been scheduled by Gartley & Dorsky Engineering. The town of Camden does not have a survey for the property, considered for possible development. Martin said he has been in contact with two parties interested in the property. They are recommending zoning changes to facilitate projects, he said.

Falciani commented that the survey "is a very preliminary stage of trying to work out a strategy" for the property, and it is premature to get into discussions on any proposals.

Public hearings Aug. 18

Board members approved a public hearing for eminent domain for a long-planned sidewalk on Route 105, which begins in the area of the tannery property and ends at Shirttail Point.

Caler said the town is still in negotiation with property owners.

"If we're not able to come to agreement, we have to start the eminent domain process, she said.

The timing of public hearings is tied to the many steps required if this were to be placed on the ballot for November elections.

Board members also approved a public hearing for an amendment to the local traffic ordinance to remove No Parking signs on Route 52 in the area of Lake Megunticook.

Ratner asked "how public hearings will be run to give people the opportunity to comment properly."

McKellar strongly suggested that those who want to comment be allowed to do so during live Zoom meetings.

Caler asked that anyone who wanted to comment during a public hearing email her (acaler@camdenmaine.gov) or Janice Esancy,(jesancy@camdenmaine.gov) and they would be provided a link to the meeting.

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