More than $1.2 million in funding commitments are in place and remediation design work is currently under way at the former site of the abandoned and blighted Robertson Paper Mill in Bellows Falls. This high-profile Brownfields Economic Revitalization Alliance (BERA) project is being funded through a combination of federal, state and local sources, including grants from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields Cleanup Program ($200,000), programs from the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) including the Brownfields Program ($151,137), Community Development’s Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) ($150,000), and the Windham County Economic Development Program (WCEDP) ($300,000). In addition, there is support from the Windham Regional Commission’s Brownfields Assessment and Revolving Loan Fund ($301,061), loans through the Town of Rockingham’s Revolving Loan Fund ($140,000), and a grant for environmental assessment from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation ($10,000).
“We are fully committed to this important BERA project and believe it will act as a catalyst in the Bellows Falls area for both Island redevelopment and strengthening the downtown, while also contributing as a valuable industrial zone in Vermont,” stated Governor Phil Scott.
A historic and defining feature of downtown Bellows Falls, the Robertson Paper Company began operating in the early 1900s and was one of the largest producers of waxed paper in the U.S. It closed its doors in the mid-1980s. The site is currently owned by Island Holdings, LLC and is located on the approximately 30-acre “Island”, which is comprised of land located east of the Bellows Falls Canal and west of the Connecticut River, just to the north of the falls.
Chemicals from the former paper mill’s industrial days have led to contamination in the soil and building materials by lead, arsenic, asbestos, petroleum and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons. The remediation project includes building demolition, asbestos removal, excavation of contaminated soil, and the installation of an 18-inch “cap” of clean soil intended to contain any contaminated soil left on site. Some contaminated soil will be sent off-site for disposal.
“Both the Town of Rockingham Select Board and the Bellows Falls Village Trustees have been working hard for years to develop the island area of downtown Bellows Falls, and this important industrial site in particular. We are proud to be able to materially assist the BFADC with staffing assistance and financial contributions on this project, and applaud the foresight and generosity of our federal, state and regional funding agencies that will ensure the success of this pivotal downtown revitalization project,” said Shane O’Keefe, Municipal Manager of the Town of Rockingham.
The project site was taken on by the Bellows Falls Area Development Corporation (BFADC) in 2013 with the express purpose of cleaning up and redeveloping the site for commercial uses. The goals of the overall project include mitigating human hazards by eliminating the failing structure, reducing potential threats to human health by remediating the soil on the site, furthering the economic development goals of the community which include business development and streetscape improvements, and preparing the site for future business development while keeping with the industrial heritage of the Island. End uses of the site could include light manufacturing, green industries and businesses focused on energy and technology.
“The blighted Robertson Paper Co. is a large foot print, industrially zoned property, smack dab in the center of the 30-acre multiple resource historic Island District in downtown Bellows Falls. Redevelopment of the Robertson Paper Co. is key to continuing a stalled revitalization that began, formally, almost 35 years ago with Island feasibility and implementation studies in 1984. Here we go!” said Gary Fox, Development Director of the Town of Rockingham.
Building demolition and site remediation is expected to commence in the fall of this year.
For more information on this project, property, or the BFADC, contact Gary Fox (Development Director) at 802-463-3456 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on redevelopment of a brownfields site, please visit http://accd.vermont.gov/economic-development/funding-incentives/brownfields-initiative or http://dec.vermont.gov/waste-management/contaminated-sites/brownfields.
For more information on BERA, please visit http://dec.vermont.gov/waste-management/contaminated-sites/brownfields/BERA.