Canal Authority looks to continue mill cleanup effort
The Augusta Canal Authority is moving forward with the cleanup of Sibley Mill, applying for a brownfields grant offered by the Environmental Protection Agency.
About 20 people attended a public meeting at the nearby Kroc Center to discuss the grant, which is one of three types of grants offered by the EPA.
The original submission date for the Canal Authority’s proposal was Monday, November 19, but the EPA decided to extend the deadline to December 3 because of the effects of Hurricane Sandy and the subsequent storms that have hammered the northeast.
Though he felt he was ready to submit the proposal before the deadline extension, Executive Director Dayton Sherrouse said he’d gladly take advantage of the extra time.
“You’re never really satisfied with them and you’ll continue to tweak them, but we don’t plan on waiting until the third to submit it,” he said. “We don’t have a firm date yet, but we will use the additional time to strengthen areas that might have deficiencies.”
The maximum amount awarded per grant is $200,000, with a 20 percent required match. Sherrouse said they typically overmatch in order to take advantage of the extra rating points when the proposals are evaluated.
“What this will do is start some of the soil remediation that we have discovered during all the environmental testing,” he said.
Earlier assessment phases have found soil contamination on the property.
“Most all of it is a byproduct of the textile operation,” Sherrouse said. “The one that’s not is lead. Lead is not a byproduct of textile, so the only explanation for that is that it was the Confederate States Powderworks.”
Before the mill was built, the location produced most of the gunpowder used by the south in the Civil War.
“Somebody asked if there was a responsible party for the contamination, and I joked the other night that in that particular case, the only recourse we have against the responsible party is to find the gold bullion the Confederacy buried out there somewhere,” he joked.
Given the current economic uncertainty, some at the meeting questioned whether or not the requested funding will even be available, and while Sherrouse said he couldn’t make any promises, the program has proved to be a popular one, even through economic downturns.
“It’s probably one of the better programs, in that it takes vacant or underutilized properties all over the United States and cleans them up and puts them in productive use that helps the local economy and puts people to work,” he said. “So it’s a job creation program to some degree, and those have fared well in previous years during severe budget times.”
Though Sherrouse is talking cleanup, he’s far from unloading the property, which the Canal Authority purchased in 2010.
“Our whole plan all along has been to get it developer-ready,” he said. “We’re basically mothballing the project while we clean it up. Hopefully, the economy will turn around by the time we finish that and then we’ll solicit a developer to redevelop the whole thing.”
He said he expects the building will become a mix of primarily residential with some office and retail. In other words, the opposite of Enterprise Mill.
“With all the effort that’s going on in Harrisburg right now and with the Kroc Center across the canal and the number of different organizations trying to improve the housing stock and overall living conditions within the Harrisburg neighborhood, I think this project could potentially play an important part of that renewal,” he said. You Might Also Like: