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BROWNFIELDS - Saw Mill and Gas Station

Cowan's Service Station, winter, 1935 

Location: Brewer, Maine

Historical/Current Use: Former saw mill and gasoline station. Currently bottle redemption center

Contaminants of Concern: Lead and petroleum compounds

Summary of Impact/Sensitive Receptors: Potential impacts to the Penobscot River, direct human contact with lead contaminated soil, and non-restricted groundwater for use as a drinking water source

This former auto salvage facility and saw mill was first used for industrial processes in the mid to late 1800's.  The site is located on the eastern bank of the Penobscot River and is surrounded by a former landfill, oil pipelines, a former tannery, and gasoline service stations.  Lead from recycled auto batteries impacted the surficial soils and sediments in the Penobscot River.  The surficial lead-impacted soil serves as the primary environmental threat to human health and the lead impacted sediments pose a risk to aquatic life and the environment.

The earliest known historical use of the Rolnick property was the Dirigo Saw Mill in 1865.  In 1895, Charles Stanford owned and operated an automobile dealership at the property. In 1914, a portion of the property was leased to Louis Rolnick to use as an automobile junkyard.  Louis Rolnick purchased the property in 1929 and continued business as an auto salvage facility until 1983.

Another portion of the property was leased to Albert Cowan in 1933 to be used for an Amoco gasoline station.  The gasoline station was relocated across South Main Street in 1946.  The current property owner has had his redemption business at the property since 1984.

Surrounding properties that were identified as having potential impacts to the Rolnick property included nearby gasoline stations, historical underground fuel lines in South Main Street, and a former landfill adjacent to the northern property boundary.

Map of the Rolnick property in Brewer and surrounding area, prepared by Tracy Weston Kelly of the Maine DEP GIS Unit.  This image has been reformatted to meet the space requirements for this page. A detailed map is available here.

Campbell Environmental Group prepared Phase I and Phase II ESAs for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection under the Brownfields Grant for the State of Maine at the Rolnick property.  As a result of the Phase I ESA, two areas of concern were identified, a variety of potential contaminants of concern were identified, and several potential offsite sources of contaminants that could impact the property were identified.  The purpose of the Phase II ESA was to determine the lateral and vertical extent of lead impacted soil due to the improper disposal of car batteries during the use of the property as an auto salvage facility from 1914 to 1983.

The investigations were also designed to identify potential contaminants of concern that were associated with other historical uses at the property including a former gasoline station as well as offsite sources that had impacted the soil and/or groundwater quality on the Rolnick property.  Sensitive receptors were identified as water quality and aquatic life in the Penobscot River located adjacent to the site along the western property boundary, the unrestricted use of groundwater for a drinking water source , and the direct human contact to elevated lead concentrations within 6 inches of the existing grade.

The Phase II techniques consisted of utilizing geophysical methods for investigating underground structures, completing 29 test pits throughout the site to determine the vertical and lateral extent of lead impacted soil and battery casings, installing four monitoring wells for groundwater sample collection, analyzing select soil samples for contaminants of concern, and collecting groundwater samples using low-flow methods.  A Phase II ESA report was prepared that analyzed all of the data.

The most sensitive environment concern for the property was the potential for highly impacted lead soils to leach to the groundwater and impact the adjacent Penobscot River.  CEG demonstrated through soil, sediment, pore water, and groundwater analyses that although high lead impacts existed on site, the actual transport mechanisms for lead impacts to the river were by erosion and physical soil transport.  This conclusion significantly impacted the costs and feasibility for providing an effective remedial solution to ensure that the site would not threaten human health or the environment.  Although the remedial efforts for the lead have yet to be implemented, this work resulted in the excavation and removal of approximately 7,000 cubic yards of petroleum impacted soil from the vicinity of the former gasoline station.

The results of the analytical data indicated the observation of buried battery casings generally correlated with elevated lead concentrations.  Three areas of battery casings with lead impacted soil were delineated. 

The groundwater sample results indicated no lead and only minor concentrations of volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds were detected in the groundwater.  This data combined with previous pore water sampling conducted by the Maine DEP indicated the pore water was impacted with lead at locations down-gradient of the groundwater samples that had no detectable lead concentrations.  CEG concluded the pore water was being impacted by the tidal influence of the river over exposed battery casings along the river embankment that likely had residual lead contamination.

Two monitoring wells were placed at the perimeter of the property in areas of potential offsite sources of contaminants.  The northeast corner of the property was impacted by petroleum compounds associated with gasoline stations from across South Main Street and underground petroleum piping within South Main Street.  The northwest corner of the property was impacted by a variety of poly-aromatic hydrocarbons assumed to be migrating from the former landfill located adjacent to the northern border of the property. 

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Campbell Environmental Group

173 Gray Road

Falmouth, ME 04105

(207) 253-1990 f(207) 253-1988