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June 4, 2014

Feds to join cleanup at paper mill

EPA says environmental threat warrants swift action

LAWRENCE — The federal government will jump-start the stalled cleanup at the crumbling Merrimac Paper mill, providing what could be hundreds of thousands of environmental Superfund dollars to remove asbestos that is widespread through the maze of 27 buildings.

Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, Mayor Daniel Rivera and Deb Szaro, a regional administrator for the federal Environmental Protection Agency, are scheduled to announce the federal grant outside the former South Canal Street mill at 3:30 p.m. today. Rivera’s chief of staff, Lisa Torrisi, declined yesterday to say how much federal money will go into the cleanup, and spokespersons for Tsongas and the EPA could not be reached late yesterday.

The federal money would be provided under an EPA program that allows the agency to fast-track urgent environmental cleanups. In this instance, the EPA gave the Merrimac mill cleanup a ranking of two on a scale of three, meaning that the environmental threat is serious enough that remediation must begin within six months.

It was unclear yesterday who will pay for the demolition that would follow the environmental remediation.

The federal money would launch a cleanup that David Padellaro, the former city cop who owns the mill, has failed for years to carry out despite repeated orders from the city, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the state Superior and Housing courts. Padellaro bought the mill for $1 from Andover developer Stephen Stapinski in 2010, who sold it after he was unable to get the city’s approval for a mixed-use development.

The effort to get the mill demolished went nowhere under former Mayor William Lantigua, but took on new urgency Jan. 13, 12 days after Rivera took office, when an inferno destroyed what was left of the historic three-story brick building that had been the street-front face of the mill since it was built in the 1880s.

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