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Reuse of former Wassau mill was topic of interstate discussion

May 12, 2010
NORTHUMBERLAND — Selectman Jim Tierney, Vice President of NCIC Cathy Conway, Groveton High School Principal Pierre Couture, and GREAT Board Member Troy Merner attended a presentation in Syracuse, New York last week on behalf of the town of Groveton that proposed potential reuses for the town's former Wassau Paper Mill. The meeting was hosted by the SUNY Center for Brownfield Studies, and was attended by roughly 60 potential investors, engineers, and representatives from both Groveton and the small village of Lyons Falls, New York.

"We spent a good 15 hours in discussion meeting people. There's a lot of interest," said Mr. Merner, referring to the crowd gathered last week, who are all interested in ways to revitalize these two struggling communities. Both mill towns, Groveton and Lyons Falls are looking to team up to improve their respective odds of securing federal money.

"We have some more meetings planned," said Mr. Merner of the towns' decision to join forces. "We are looking to do this as a dual-partnership with Lyons Falls."

Lyons Falls is a small village of roughly 600 located in northwestern New York. Many comparisons were made between Lyons Falls' Lewis County and our own Coös County, mentioned Mr. Merner. The two counties are both rural with populations around 30,000.

Brownfield sites are industrial facilities that are available, but whose reuse is complicated by environmental hazards. Funding is available through the Environmental Protection Agency for Brownfield sites.

The Center for Brownfield Studies at SUNY's College of Environmental Science and Forestry has been working on a plan for the former Wassau Mill for months now. SUNY's Center for Brownfield Studies "provides support to political jurisdictions, public agencies, and non-profit organizations on issues relating to recycling of sites and developing of land," according to their site. A Groveton Paper Mill Reuse Strategies is one of the projects listed on their site.

"I actually feel like something's been accomplished over these past nine months," said Mr. Merner of the Center for Brownfield Studies exploration of possible reuses for the mill, one of which is aquaponics, a method of growing plants and fish simultaneously with the fish providing fertilizer for the plants in a symbiotic relationship. However, no plans have been finalized and there are still many questions to be answered, explained Mr. Merner.

Representatives from the SUNY Center for Brownfield Studies will be visiting Groveton on June 23 to present a detailed proposal to the townspeople.

Klumb Environmenta;
Varney Smith
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