The Bates Mill was once the largest employer in Maine, with activity dating back to the mid-1850s. The enormous textile mill encompassed 11 buildings totaling approximately 1.2 million square feet on 10-acres. The property served as both the geographic and cultural center of downtown Lewiston, as most of its workers lived and shopped within walking distance of the mill. As the once-booming textile industry declined in the northeast, investment left the area. The area’s poverty rates eventually rose to nearly 50 percent and unemployment rates to 16 percent. After 30 years of steady decline, the city acquired the abandoned mill propertyin 1992.
Brownfields Assessment Demonstration Pilot grant awarded by EPA in 1998 funded detailed assessments of the Bates Mill site, revealing metals, PCBs, volatile organic compounds, and mixed petroleum products. A portion of the property was found to have high-enough contamination levels to warrant a $386,770 cleanup through EPA’s Emergency Response and Removal program. EPA awarded an additional $300,000 to Lewiston for further assessment at the Bates Mill propertyand nearby properties; EPA also awarded Lewiston a $500,000 Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund (BCRLF) Pilot in 2000.