Dec. 18–PORTLAND — The future of the town’s proposed purchase of Brownstone Avenue land that sits on the riverfront depends on the condition of an underground oil pipeline.
Like the pipeline, action on the proposal continues largely out of sight but no less determined.
The town reached a tentative agreement last year to buy the former location of the Connecticut Tar and Asphalt Co. from the estate of the late owner, John Balletti.
The property on Brownstone Avenue is made up of three individual parcels totaling 5.28 acres.
Town officials said then they envisioned a wide range of potential uses of the parcels, possibly including additional parking for the adjacent Brownstone Exploration and Discovery Park and a waterfront restaurant.
But earlier this year movement forward on the sale was halted over concerns about the status and condition of an oil delivery pipeline that runs under a portion of Brownstone Avenue and the property.
The pipeline, which was installed in 1981, was shut down on April 30, 2010, according to Amy J. Vaillancourt, an environmental engineer who is working with the town on the project.
Over the summer, the property owners removed some 10,000 gallons of residual oil that had been left in the pipeline.
The owners said the pipe was in “decent shape,” First Selectwoman Susan S. Bransfield said Monday.
But because the property is a brownfield site given its previous use, “We’re striving to be as thorough as possible.”
The Board of Selectmen agreed that a pressure test should be conducted on the pipe, Bransfield said.
“We want to make sure we have done all our due diligence” as well as being as transparent as possible, she said during a telephone call.
The town also has proposed having the owner conduct a nitrogen test on the pipeline.
The owner, however, is proposing “other less expensive and less onerous tests that could be performed such as an air pressure test.”
The owner contends the proposed nitrogen test “could cause damage or render the pipeline unusable.”
The selectmen are open to a compromise on the type of test, Bransfield suggested.
Meanwhile, she held a visit to the site last month for a group of officials from the state Department of Economic and Community Development, which oversees restoring brownfields to become viable properties.
DECD has supported Portland’s efforts with grants, including a $200,000 grant to conduct the necessary environmental studies.
If the town does purchase the land, DECD has promised to provide a second grant totaling $750,000 to clean up the property.
The DECD team was headed by Binu Chandy, the deputy director of the state Office of Brownfield Remediation and Development.
Bransfield was accompanied by Vaillancourt and by selectmen James K. Tripp and Ralph R Zampano.
“We’re partners with the state, so it’s important to keep them involved with information, Bransfield said.
On the tour, Chandy found the proposal to be “an excellent project” and one with “great economic development potential,” Bransfield said.
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