Storm moves deadline for Sibley Mill's bid for EPA funds

Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012 11:13 AM
Last updated 7:23 PM
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Hurricane Sandy has given the Augusta Canal Au­thority more time to prepare its newest application for a federal grant to continue environmental cleanup work at the vacant Sibley Mill.

The Augusta Canal Authority, which purchased the 518,000-square-foot Sibley Mill in 2010 for $800,000, is applying for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency "brownfields grant" to fund the next phase of environmental remediation.  FILE/STAFF
FILE/STAFF
The Augusta Canal Authority, which purchased the 518,000-square-foot Sibley Mill in 2010 for $800,000, is applying for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency "brownfields grant" to fund the next phase of environmental remediation.

“The deadline was originally Nov. 19, but due to storm problems in the Northeast it was extended to Dec. 3,” said Dayton Sherrouse, the authority’s executive director.

The request for a $200,000 En­vironmental Protection Agen­cy Brownfields grant will be the authority’s third try for a share of the limited funds.

“We hope the third time is the charm,” Sherrouse said. “It is a very competitive program with a lot of applicants.”

The historic mill, purchased by the canal authority in 2010, is gradually being prepared for eventual redevelopment.

The canal authority has helped maintain the site and operates the mill’s hydropower turbines, which generate revenue through the sale of electricity.

Last year, even without the EPA grant, the authority financed $242,000 in remediation at the site, including removal of mercury residue, pesticides, old pipelines and caustic tanks once used in the textile processes.

During a public hearing last week, officials discussed the next cleanup activities planned at the site, which will include removal of contaminated soil and other improvements.

Though the last two applications did not get approved, federal officials did respond with a critique of the latest application.

“We did get a debriefing of sorts on the last one, outlining all the strengths and weaknesses of the earlier proposal,” Sherrouse said. “So we are paying special attention to all those details.”

The grant would require a 20 percent match in local funds, meaning a $40,000 local allocation could be leveraged into $240,000 in projects.

The grants are expected to be announced and awarded in April or May.

No specific future use has been determined for the mill, but ideas discussed in the past have included combinations of residential, professional and retail development.

Sibley Mill, which opened in 1882 and operated continuously for 124 years before closing in July 2006, is among the most unusual of the surviving textile plants in the region.

In addition to its unique architecture, it has ties to the Civil War, having been built atop the ruins of the Con­fed­erate Powderworks that operated along the canal and manufactured most of the gunpowder used by the South.

Josiah Sibley, a cotton broker from Massachusetts who built the mill, used about 550,000 bricks from the demolished munitions plant during construction. His young daughter, Pearl, laid the last brick Jan. 27, 1882.


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