A Sanford-based engineering company from the Maine National Guard will travel to East Millinocket early next month to conduct demolition work as part of the town’s ongoing effort to repurpose its former paper mill site for new tenants.
A platoon from the 262nd Engineering Company of the Maine National Guard will be in East Millinocket from Aug. 1-10 to remove the remaining cement fire suppression towers that overlook the woodyard at the former Great Northern Paper Co. mill, according to Mike Michaud, the chair of the East Millinocket Select Board.
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Previous owners had demolished parts of the mill site before the town bought it in July 2020, but the mill’s fire suppression towers remained, Michaud said. There are also a handful of unused buildings on the mill site that are still privately owned, he said.
The guard members will also perform maintenance work around the mill’s stormwater draining areas as part of a federal defense program that trains soldiers in areas like construction, transportation and health care, according to Maj. Carl Lamb, a spokesperson for the Maine National Guard.
“Maine has long relied on this program and these projects as a way for our units to both train on the mission-essential tasks required for our federal wartime mission, while at the same time improving and contributing to the communities in which we live and work,” Lamb said.
East Millinocket has sought to attract new tenants to the former paper mill since purchasing the site in July 2020 and has made some progress. The mill closed for good in 2014, leading hundreds of area residents to lose their jobs and depriving the town of its largest commercial taxpayer.
Portland startup Standard Biocarbon initially signed a lease in February 2021 to open a factory on the former site that would produce biochar, a fertilizer alternative, from wood chips through a process called pyrolysis. But the company paused those plans to develop a plant in Enfield, Maine Public reported earlier this month.
Another company, Logistics Management Systems, leases the mill’s warehouse to store paper and lumber.
One company, Ottawa-based Ensyn Fuels Inc., is in the process of setting up shop there, while two others are exploring the possibility of opening businesses on the site, Michaud said.
Ensyn is working with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to open a factory on the former mill site that would convert biomass, like wood chips, into renewable heating oil using thermal technology.
Bit Intelligence is subleasing from E-Rail-Z, a mill site tenant, to explore the possibility of opening a data center, and is preparing to apply for a planning board permit, Michaud said.
And Convalt Energy is looking to reopen the mill site’s former biomass and steam plant buildings, which the town does not own, Michaud said. The New York-based firm announced in February that it eventually hoped to open a $5 billion generation and transmission plant in East Millinocket.
For now, the town plans to welcome the National Guardsmen with a barbeque and community lunches, Michaud said.
“Everything is full steam ahead,” he said. “We’re just glad things are going in the right direction.”