EPA to Clear Lead-Contaminated Soil along Penobscot River

Next week EPA expects to begin work to clean soil contaminated with lead at the Rolnick Site along the Penobscot River in Brewer, Maine. The agency estimates it will take three to four months to clean the four-acre site that once held both an auto salvage shop and a gas station, situated a half mile from the center of town in a mixed residential and commercial area. The lead contamination threatens the health of workers and others who come in direct contact with the contaminated soils and is a potential threat to the Atlantic salmon and striped bass population in the Penobscot River, EPA says. In addition to clearing the soil, the agency will be working to stabilize the site's shoreline.

As part of the cleanup efforts, EPA will:

  • Secure portions of the site to prevent unauthorized access;
  • Excavate and consolidate contaminated soils and transport them to a permitted facility;
  • Restore and stabilize parts of the riverbank that were damaged;
  • Monitor air during the cleanup to ensure safety of workers and nearby employees and residents;
  • Repair related damages.

During the excavation activities, work crews will be dressed in protective clothing including white Tyvek® coveralls, hard hats, and possibly respirators. Throughout the clean up, EPA staff will take measures to ensure that conditions are not harmful for people in the surrounding area, such as conducting area air monitoring and taking precautions to limit dust.

Over the last century, the privately owned property has been used at various times as a saw mill, automobile dealership, gas station, and automobile salvage. During an investigation in the spring of 2008, state and EPA inspectors determined that the lead in the surface and subsurface soils primarily on the riverbank portions of the site pose a risk to public health. The riverbank along the southern edge has visible battery casings, presumably from the auto salvage business, the agency notes. And the riverbank along the western edge is made up of crib work constructed with wood timbers and car chasses. Battery casings and other debris are also visible in this area.

Previous investigations of the area by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and EPA determined that contaminants, mainly lead, are present in the soil. In 2006, the state DEP cleaned soils contaminated with petroleum in the northeast corner of the property where the former gasoline station was located. A bottle redemption center in the northwest corner of the site will continue to operate during its normal business hours. For more information, visit EPA's Emergency Response program in New England Web site at www.epa.gov/ne/superfund/er/index.htm.

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