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Release Date: 04/22/1999
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, EPA Community Affairs Office, (617) 918-1064

Boston - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today proposed the Eastland Woolen Mill site and properties where mill wastes have migrated in Corinna, Maine, to the National Priorities List, commonly called the Superfund. A 60-day public comment period begins today and allows citizens and others to comment on the final listing of the site on the Superfund. Superfund allows federal money to be spent to clean up toxic contamination when past or current responsible parties are unable to pay for the cleanup, or while EPA conducts investigations of potentially responsible parties with the aim of recouping the cleanup dollars through future negotiated settlements or enforcement actions. The former Eastland Company declared bankruptcy in 1996, leaving the building abandoned. "EPA has already invested $500,000 to identify the contamination at this mill site," said John P. DeVillars, EPA's New England administrator. "Superfund designation will ensure that we have the funds to fully investigate and clean up this site."

"With the 29th celebration of Earth Day today, the EPA's proposal to include Eastland Woolen Mill as a Superfund site is both welcome and appropriate," said U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe. "This designation will allow federal funding of cleanup of this hazardous waste site, which will not only protect the environment and the health of citizens of Corinna, but also contribute to economic development efforts in the region."

"I'm pleased that the EPA has proposed the Eastland Woolen Mill site to the NPL," said U.S. Senator Susan Collins. "Town officials have worked hard to overcome the financial hardship caused by the mill's closing, and I've joined their efforts to gain Superfund status for the site. A Superfund designation would bring to bear the resources of the federal government, allowing the property to be redeveloped. I will continue to support the effort of the town of Corinna to have the site listed on the NPL."

"It is imperative that the Eastland Woolen Mill site be cleaned and made suitable for future use. I am pleased that the Environmental Protection Agency is taking steps to identify the presence of contaminants in the soil and water," said Congressman John Baldacci. "Inclusion of Eastland Woolen Mill on the Superfund list will help to move this process forward. I am hopeful that the EPA will act swiftly to address any environmental concerns that might be identified at the Corinna location."

EPA, working closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Geological Survey, has already completed much of the field work for the initial investigation of the site to understand the extent of contaminated soil beneath and adjacent to the mill structure. Dozens of samples have been analyzed and indicate a significant presence of chlorobenzene, dichlorobenzene, and trichlorobenzene in subsurface soils, and the presence of mercury, chromium, and oils inside of the mill building.

Groundwater sampling performed over several years by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and more recently by EPA, indicates that contamination extends in several directions up to a distance of 800 feet from the Eastland Woolen Mill. These results indicate concentrations of benzene, chlorobenzene, dichlorobenzene, and trichlorobenzene well above federal drinking water standards or state guidelines.

In 1983, an employee from DEP visited a Corinna restaurant and noticed a peculiar odor and taste. This led to sampling and analysis which first revealed contaminated groundwater drawn from a bedrock well.

As a result, DEP encouraged the Eastland Company (former owner of the mill) to install a water supply system to serve affected homes with a clean source of water for drinking and other domestic purposes. However, due to their 1996 bankruptcy, the Eastland Company was no longer able to service the water system. Since that time, the DEP has provided the Corinna Water District with financial support to continue to operate the water supply system.

Currently, DEP is working with the Corinna Water District to identify long-term needs to maintain the system and help the Water District develop tools to financially support themselves. To facilitate this capacity, the state is providing the Water District with interim financial assistance. In addition, DEP continues to monitor several homes and businesses in the area currently not served by the water system to ensure that residents are not being exposed to unsafe levels of contamination.

The Eastland Woolen Mill site is a 21-acre parcel located on the north side of Main Street, and consists of a large manufacturing building , several other smaller buildings, and two dams ,with a total area of 250,000 square feet. The original mill structure was built around the turn of the century with many additions to the original structure built since then. Eastland Woolen Mill used a dye aid chemical containing chlorobenzene in its wool production process, and discharged wastewater containing spent chemicals into the East Branch of the Sebasticook River which flows under the mill.

Superfund also known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) is a federal law passed in 1980 and amended in 1986 which creates a special tax that goes into a trust fund or superfund.