Salisbury, MDE Reach Deal On Property

SALISBURY — The Salisbury City Council has decided to accept an offer made by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to remove oil-based contamination from the Anne Street property.

In doing so, the council also agreed to use its own resources to demolish about 25 percent of the building, which will allow MDE access to contaminated fuel tanks.

Earlier this month, MDE offered a $100,000 grant to Salisbury for the clean-up project, contingent on the fact that the city demolishes a portion of the structure. The site currently suffers from petroleum-based contamination from underground fuel tanks. According to an assessment conducted by MDE, “several feet of petroleum [was found] floating on the water table.” However, further investigation of the property revealed that the contamination affected other aspects of the site.

“Due to the age of the structure,” read the MDE report, “it is likely that lead-based paint is present within the two principal structures.”

Besides the paint, soil collected from the area showed signs of pesticide contamination and MDE believes there’s the potential for asbestos to be located within the property. Finally, groundwater samples displayed further evidence of pesticide as well as high iron and manganese levels, though those were still below regulatory guidelines.

“At all levels there is contamination there,” said Councilwoman Laura Mitchell of 407 Anne St, which previously was the location of the Linens of the Week building.

It is because of this additional contamination that some councilmembers were initially wary of committing to the decontamination project. During a work session earlier this month, concerns arose over the city’s liability if demolition of the building spreads contamination into the surrounding area. However, city officials assured the council at Monday’s meeting that there shouldn’t be any issues.

“This company [that will perform the demolition] should not be disturbing the soil,” said Assistant City Administrator Loré Chambers.

With the MDE grant offer expiring next month, the council was on the clock for making a decision.

“I do think it’s an opportunity we should take,” said Council President Terry Cohen.

“We have opportunity here to access funds to get rid of contamination,” agreed Mitchell.

Though the issue was not finally settled at the work session, it did make a surprise appearance during that night’s legislative session, where the council decided to accept MDE’s proposal. In doing so, the city also agreed to perform partial demolition on the property. Speculative bids had already been gathered, and Mitchell confirmed that a company, whose name she did not disclose, was selected by the council to facilitate the demolition at a cost of just over $20,000.

Mitchell, who pushed for the city to accept MDE’s offer from the beginning, said she was pleased the council decided to tackle the Linens of the Week project using the special state funding.

“I am very pleased that the administration was able to locate a funding source that was directly targeted for this type of project,” said Mitchell, “rather than using CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) funding alone.”

Mitchell added that CDBG funds are “broad” and can be used for a number of other projects, while the MDE funding was much more specific, and thus, needed to be taken advantage of quickly.