The process took nearly five years, but Lubec's former Columbian Packing Company brownfield project is reaching the end. About 50 people gathered on June 16 to celebrate the persistent work required to obtain financing and arrange for the required demolition to remove the long‑disused plant and remediate soil contamination and the construction and landscaping that turned the location from a dangerous eyesore into a treasure.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony took place under a threatening sky but with the panorama of Johnson Bay stretching out behind the speakers. It is a view that even lifetime residents say they have not previously seen. "This is great," said an obviously delighted Errol "Bunky" Tinker, pointing out towards Dudley and Treat's islands. Visitors will get their first glimpse of the bay from this spot, where parking and benches are provided.
Todd Coffin, senior project manager from Amec Foster Wheeler and the project supervisor, described the process before introducing other major players, including Geraldine "Gerry" Green, past president of the Lubec Historical Society, before a clearly emotional Green cut the ribbon signifying the completion of the major parts of the project. Former Town Administrator John Sutherland was given credit for keeping the project on track following the initial grant rejection by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Cecil Moores, said Coffin, "provided untold hours of work through the entire process."
An important part of the project involved moving the historical society building itself and was funded by a separate grant. The former Columbian Packing Company store was moved from its original foundation to a new one, allowing removal of contaminated soil and giving it a more advantageous location. Expansion of the building is currently under way to provide expanded exhibit space. Enhanced access to the shoreline was an important part of the project, said historical society President Barbara Sellitto, pointing out the footpath leading to the water's edge.
To pave the way to the federal EPA brownfield grants that provided major funding, the property was transferred to the Town of Lubec, but it is anticipated that ownership will revert to the historical society, a nonprofit organization. Initial steps toward the project were undertaken by former historical society President Ronald Pesha but were carried out almost entirely under the management of current President Sellitto.
Actual work commenced in late summer 2016 and proceeded through the winter, thanks to generally favorable weather conditions.
Coffin also acknowledged the earlier work of the Washington County Council of Governments (WCCOG). Judy East, WCCOG executive director, unveiled a plaque commemorating the Columbian Packing Company and the remediation process, featuring aerial drone photographs provided by Craig McCaslin. Kelly Cotiaux, staff assistant to Senator Susan Collins, read a statement by Collins honoring the work of the volunteers and offering her congratulations on the successful completion of the project.