STONINGTON — Environmental problems and missing information led to a three month delay in the removal of debris from the site of the old Connecticut Casting Mill on Stillman Avenue, but officials are hopeful that the work, which began Tuesday, will proceed more quickly.

The mill at 75 Stillman Ave., on the west bank of the Pawcatuck River, has been vacant for year. An April storm caused a partial roof collapse and the structure was torn down to prevent it from falling into the river.

Stonington First Selectman Rob Simmons said the goal is to complete the work in about two weeks. He noted that the timeline could change, depending on the weather or unforeseen discoveries at the site. Workers at the site said Wednesday morning that the process typically takes 15 days from start to finish.

"Right now, it's just gratifying to know we have competent, qualified personnel on site," Simmons said in an interview Wednesday. "I was there this morning to see the process; everything is safe and we are nearing the finish line."

Debris removal is being conducted by Standard Demolition Services, of Trumbull, Conn. ChemScope Industrial Hygiene, of North Haven, Conn., is working alongside the demolition specialists to monitor asbestos levels in order to assure that records indicating that the problem has largely been dealt with are accurate and that no new environmental hazard occurs.

According to a press release from the town, "material on site will be segregated into separate piles and tested prior to removal to ensure safe transportation to disposal sites elsewhere in the country." Bricks that fell into the river during the roof collapse will be recovered later.

The work is being supervised by Stonington Town Engineer Scot Deledda.

"We're going to do our best to get things into certain piles that will go to different facilities, but we have to apply to these waste facilities," Deledda had told The Sun in late June, noting there is an additional cost to keep contaminants separated.

The factory was built in 1838 and originally operated as a water-powered woolen mill. Later, it was converted to a metal castings mill that closed in the late 1990s.

Pawcatuck Landings LLC bought the property around 2003 and conducted site remediation and asbestos abatement. The recession led the company to scrap plans for building apartments, however, and the site was abandoned.

After the April 15 storm, the town authorized an expenditure of $125,000 for emergency demolition aimed at preventing a variety of contaminants, including lead, asbestos and PCBs, from polluting the river. The Board of Finance later approved spending up to $600,000 for the project.

The work was delayed when town officials found that records on the mill had been shredded, including EPA files on PCBs and records of the work done under the latest owners.

Simmons said only $145,000 has been spent so far, but warned that costs could "add up quickly." He said the town has already placed a lien on the property and would continue to seek reimbursement from Pawcatuck Landings LLC. But the company has been largely unresponsive, town officials said, and remains more than three years behind on its taxes.

Simmons said relevant files were eventually located, thanks to the help of Talevi Enterprises Inc., of Berlin, Conn., which aided in the asbestos removal in the early 2000s. Once those records were located, Simmons said the town was able to narrow the scope of the project and start developing a contract.

"It's not cheap — the costs for removal are going to continue to rise," Simmons said. "We are now hopeful that it will be less than the funding we have budgeted, but we just don't know yet."

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