Franklin Countys First News

Demolition at the Wilton mill on hold until asbestos is removed

Demolition of the former Forster Manufacturing Company mill has stopped until asbestos abatement can take place.

WILTON - Citations are expected after tests confirmed unhealthy levels of airborne asbestos at the Forster mill demolition this week, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The construction company doing the demolition and salvage work at the mill since April has stopped all work until the hazardous material can be removed, said William Coffin, OSHA's director in Maine.

Following a complaint received a few weeks ago, OSHA arrived unannounced and took air samples at various areas throughout the four-level, 235,000 square foot complex of mill buildings. Samples were then sent to OSHA's Salt Lake City lab with the results coming back this week.

"Everything was asbestos," Coffin said of the findings. An OSHA inspector returned to the mill and told the Downeast Construction Co. foreman of the results. The foreman was advised to remove people from the site, which he has done, until an abatement company can come in. About ten employees have been working to raze the mill.

The hazardous asbestos material is mostly in the form of pipe insulation, Coffin said, commonly found at industrial sites. Normally the asbestos material can be encapsulated to prevent microscopic fibers from escaping into the air and easily and unknowingly inhaled. But, in the case of demolition, all asbestos-containing materials need to be removed before work can continue. Asbestos exposure can lead to several types of cancers, especially lung cancer.

Besides the construction workers at the site being exposed to asbestos, a police officer and firefighters responding to a fire on Monday at the site were exposed. The fire, reported by a neighbor, had started by sparks as welders were cutting pipes. A standard chest x-ray can be used to detect the presence of asbestos fibers in the lungs.

"It's a huge, multi-story building," Coffin said, and, the next step is to have an abatement company survey the building to find out how much asbestos is in the building. The building's owner, Adam Mack of Portland, assured selectmen and the Wilton Planning Board in April that as industrial sites go, the 12-acre mill property on Depot Street is relatively clean because no chemicals were used in the manufacture of wool or wood products. Mack said that the only asbestos listed in a Phase I Brownfield environmental study of the mill site conducted in 2004 was found in the floor tiles.

The planners gave conditional permit approval, asking among other things, for the state's Department of Environmental Protection's assurance the project has the agency's approval to proceed and its recommendations are followed. Selectmen said they received such assurance at their April 19 meeting and approved the permit, allowing for the demotion to begin.

Coffin said air sample results taken where wood material from the mill was stored across the street haven't come back yet. Any concerns for the air quality in the mill's surrounding neighborhoods is something the DEP would be involved with looking into, Coffin said. OSHA oversees employee safety and health issues only.

A phone message left with John Bucci of the state's DEP, who has been involved with the mill demolition project's permitting has not been returned yet.

Coffin added that he expects OSHA will be issuing citations in this case. If found in serious violation, stiff penalties may result, he said.

A pile of wood scraps taken from the mill and stored across the street have been tested but the results aren't back yet.

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17 Responses »

  1. Duh. I've been waiting for this. During the whole demo, I drive by and wonder about how it could possibly be safe from toxins.

  2. i bet this building will sit in this condition for years now. the slums of Wilton, i can't wait to move!

  3. Oh great, that pile of lumber is across the street where anybody could get into it.Should be covered and marked appropiately.

  4. I wonder if they tested for any of that before the demolition began. Probably not. That would be the second thing I would look/test for- the first being the overall safety of the building to be demolished.
    Its not rocket science. I bet (almost) every single old, industrial building like this has got asbestos, lead and all of the other goodies that can seriously hurt someone. Come on guys...

  5. I am with you Hutch.

  6. does any one know if this poses a risk to residents that live close by? i live within sight of the building is there anything to worry about?

  7. Gonna cost alot of $$ to remove this. I wonder if they thought about this?


  9. I’ve got an idea. Why don’t we sell it to Cousineau for $ 1.00 and then the town can buy all the houses around it so he will have adequate parking when he gets another multi-million dollar grant to construct a building he can lease space to the State. No brainer !!

  10. surprise, surprise, no one is willing to give the building owner/ construction company the benefit of the doubt. as far as the owner knew there was only asbestos in the floor tile according to the "Phase I Brownfield environmental study of the mill site conducted in 2004". lets not nail this guy to the cross quite yet, give him a minute to get things straightened out and fix the problem. try not to forget that the razing of this extremely dangerous and pitiful looking building is a good thing for the community.

  11. p.s. i live 200 yards from this building so im not just an outsider looking in.

  12. Please keep in mind that this property is privately owned by Adam Mack and HE has hired Downeast Construction to raze the buildings. The town of Wilton DOES NOT OWN THIS PROPERTY. The contractor voluntarily stopped work to assess the conditions before continuing with the demolition. Like Dave Fish said, lets give the guy a chance to regroup and hopefully things go smoothly.

  13. Thanks Scott. Everyone likes to jump all over Wilton officials before they get the whole story and all the facts.
    Oh and I love the part, "OSHA received a complaint." I'll bet they did. Big surprise.

  14. I understnd that Wilton does not own the property but 'they' approved the permits! Anyone with a clue about construction should have known those pipes were covered with the stuff! There has been several murmurs from the community expressing concern about the hazards exuding from that place. Yes it is an eyesore and a danger and needs to be torn down but not at the cost of employees' health. Hats off to OSHA and hopefully the DEP will doesnt find that the neighborhood has suffered. And to the should know better! Its hard enough to find employment these days, we shouldnt have to risk ours lives for them!

  15. Doesn't anyone really care about the history of this building to be razed and lost forever? Haven't you all seen the pictures of the fanfare celebration in the streets in front of this building after we won WWII? The front section isn't wicked old (1920s?), but it's an evolution of what was a beautiful structure that was originally built in the mid 1800's (further back section and the area stretched over the waters)

    I wish those sections could be saved... too much town history and pride of years past, where did that go? The last owner 10 years ago ruined the property and his family's wealth along with stripping it for it's copper wiring and steel, making it useless to lease, where upon kids decided to smash out every window until it rained inside and ruined some sections from the inside out.

    I was inside this mill just 2 years ago capturing beautiful images, and saw hand written writings on the wall from the 1940s with dates and names... probably of your own family.

  16. So, do you have a proposal for saving all this history, or do you just think that "someone" ought to do it for your benefit.
    If you've got beautiful images of this dump then you have the history to keep forever.
    The place is a dangerous, nasty eyesore. It needs to come down and be grassed over. The sooner, the better!

  17. I cant believe that asbestos remains so common to this day. You would think there would be records of where it was used so it'd be easier to clean up. But no, you keep hearing about it turning up in schools, offices and even houses. Scary stuff!