NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 23, 2013

Complex process beneath surface of Lower Millyard project

Here comes the understatement of the week: The Lower Millyard project has been, and will continue to be, a very complicated effort.

Most of the discussion surrounding the Lower Millyard so far has been economic in nature, specifically how much it will cost to move the Department of Public Works garage, build Heritage Park and realign Water Street.

But what hasn’t garnered as much attention is the fact that the area also has about a century’s worth of soil contamination, which makes it almost impossible to do anything with the land until the soil can be cleaned up.

In technical terms, the Lower Millyard is a brownfield site, or a piece of land previously used for industrial purposes that has the potential to be reused once it has been cleaned up. Brownfield sites usually have low concentrations of hazardous waste or pollution in the soil, and cleaning all of that up isn’t as simple as hiring a really good gardener.

Luckily for Amesbury, the state has a special Brownfield Support Team dedicated specifically to helping clean up brownfields in order to advance high-priority projects, and the Lower Millyard was recently selected as one of five projects to receive BST support.

Last week, representatives from the state Department of Environmental Protection, Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the attorney general’s office and other state and federal agencies met with Mayor Thatcher Kezer to discuss the Lower Millyard and begin planning how to best move the project forward.

By bringing all of the agencies together, the representatives from each can work together on permitting matters and ownership issues and essentially fight through all of the red tape that typically holds up complicated projects like the Lower Millyard.

Kezer said he was very impressed with the state’s level of commitment and is excited for the progress that the group promises to help bring about.

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