Workers have finished removing mercury and pesticides from the vacant Sibley Mill, but finding a new owner for the historic landmark will require more work, more money and a better economy.
“The emphasis is and will continue to be to get it more developer-ready for when the economy, hopefully someday, will turn around,” said Dayton Sherrouse, the executive director of the Augusta Canal Authority, which bought the ornate, 518,000-square-foot building last year from Avondale Mills.
The cleanup, which began in August and cost about $180,000, included removal of mercury from the mill’s boiler room and removal of pesticide residue from basement areas. Workers also tore out old pipelines and cut apart steel caustic tanks to be sold for scrap metal.
Other phases of cleanup and stabilization will occur as funding becomes available.
The canal authority plans to reapply this fall for grants of up to $200,000 apiece administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but the competitive nature of the program offers no guarantee Sibley will receive funding.
“EPA last week released what they anticipate having, which is $65 million nationally for three programs,” Sherrouse said.
One of those programs, which has $18 million for cleanup projects, would fund no more than 90 projects, with many more applicants than funding would allow.
Plans include marketing the site for what might include residential, professional and commercial uses.
The site is a few blocks from an already redeveloped textile site – Enterprise Mill – which also houses the canal authority’s offices and interpretive center.
In 2001, the canal authority purchased Sibley’s next-door neighbor, King Mill, for $250,000.
The authority then leased the building to a new operator, Ohio-based Standard Textile, which has kept it open as an active manufacturer and employer.
All those sites lie within the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area.