Abenaki Field, Wells (07/2007) Fee

76. Abenaki Field, Wells  (07/2007)  Fee
A donation of 62 acres of land on Burnt Mill Road. A 10-acre portion of this property was heavily contaminated by a previous owner with solvents and waste oil, was remediated at a cost of $14.7 million, and donated by TRC Corporation. The other 52 acres are forested with a brook feeding into the Webhannet River.


Letting it heal… Abenaki Field, Wells

At the end of July [2007], the Land Trust accepted title to 62.2 acres in Wells on Burnt Mill Road known as Abenaki Field from TRC Companies, Inc.. The parcel contains 57 acres of woods with wetlands and a tributary to Blacksmith Brook, which feeds into the Webhannet River. It is part of a larger 500-acre block of forest unfragmented by development or roads. This block includes an important deer wintering area identified by Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.

A 10-acre portion of the original property was formerly a highly contaminated hazardous waste site when owned and operated by Portland Bangor Waste Oil. For years, waste oil and solvents had been dumped into open lagoons by the previous owner, contaminating the soil and ground water. “This was an interesting and challenging project from the start and opened new conservation ground for this Trust as well as for land trusts statewide,” stated Project Coordinator, Tin Smith.

In cooperation with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the responsible parties, TRC Companies, Inc., an environmental firm, acquired the 67-acre contaminated site in 1997, assumed environmental liability through a TRC Exit Strategy contract, and proceeded to clean it up at a cost of $14.5 million. TRC excavated all the contaminated soil – down to bedrock in most places – and mixed it with ash and concrete to make an inert concrete-like material that is highly weather- and water-resistant. The “soil-crete” was then placed in a designated area and capped, forming a “soil vault” on site, which continues to be owned and managed by TRC.

With the cleanup completed, TRC was looking for a permanent holder for the property and approached the Trust. “The land trust is a good fit with our goal of continuing to let the land recover,” said Paola Macchiaroli, Senior Project Manager for TRC. “It was important for us that the land be protected from any recurrence of contamination and that we are able to continue to monitor the ground water. We are pleased that this remediation project has culminated with the donation of the land to a responsible conservation group.”

It was not an easy decision for the GWRLT Board, as both Maine DEP and TRC acknowledged that there remains low-levels of contamination in the ground water that are expected to slowly degrade and dilute over time. The project included risks and concerns about liability that the Board had not previously considered. In the end the Board, with help from Attorney Hope Jacobsen of Thompson and Perkins, felt the risks could be minimized by creating a separate entity, GWRLT, LLC, to hold the title and with assurances from both the Maine DEP and TRC that they will remain involved in both monitoring and any further remediation should it be found necessary.

Thus starts a new era for this land, and for the land trust. “By accepting this property and partnering with TRC on the long-term stewardship of Abenaki Field, Great Works is actually increasing and improving the amount of natural habitat in our region rather than just protecting what already exists.” said Tin Smith. And the land, with our help, will continue to heal.