POWNAL -- The town intends to apply for a $200,000 grant to clean up the former Pownal Tanning Co. hydro-electric dam on behalf of a local company that wants to rehabilitate it.
A public hearing for the grant will be held tonight at a Select Board meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Town Office, 467 Center St.
Dennis Candelora, who co-owns Hoosic River Hydro with Bill Scully, said the grant application is due Jan. 22 and to be complete it requires a public hearing where citizens can give input on it.
Candelora, who owns a home in Pownal where he has been working on his own personal hydro project, said Hoosic River Hydro has signed a lease option agreement with the town that is good for three years and allows the company to conduct feasibility studies and do other things to take the project forward.
The grant is from the Environmental Protection Agency and the award maximum is $200,000, however the estimated cost of cleaning up the contaminants behind the dam is around $300,000. A federal Brownfields grant, which would further identify the scope of the pollution, has also been applied for. The maximum award there is also $200,000 which HRH has requested. Brownfields grants are federally funded but processed by the state.
The EPA clean-up grant requires a 20 percent match, Candelora said, but as per the lease option agreement with the town his company will bear the cost of that along with all other pre development expenses.
The dam is on the Hoosic River near Dean Road. The town took "involuntary ownership" of it in 2002 for non-payment of taxes. According to the grant application, the original operation was built in 1866 by the North Pownal Manufacturing Co., owned by A.C. Houghton and Co., and made cotton print cloth. In 1935 it became a tannery. The dam was built in 1907 and rebuilt in 1955. From there it powered the tannery until 1988 when the company shut down.
While the tanning company itself became an EPA Superfund site, the dam did not. A number of developers have looked at making the dam run again, but the PCB contamination in the sediment behind the dam has thwarted those efforts.
PCBs are chemical compounds that do not break down easily. The contamination behind the dam is believed to have come from manufacturing operations in Massachusetts.
Candelora said he plans to be at the meeting tonight to answer questions. Both he and Scully have experience with hydro projects. Scully owns the former Vermont Tissue Mill in North Bennington and has been trying to rehabilitate the hydro-electric dam there.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.