The clanging sound of metal scraping against metal rang through the air on River Road last week as demolition of the Simkins Mill began.
Per a Baltimore County razing permit issued on May 7, Simkins Industries and the company's locally contracted demolition company, A2Z Environmental Group, has 150 days to raze the vacant paper mill of more than 70,000 square feet at the intersection of River Road and Old Thistle Road in western Catonsville, near the Howard County border.
"I'm happy to see that this is moving forward," said 1st District Councilman Tom Quirk. "Hopefully, the property itself gets absorbed back into the state park system."
The project comes as part of Maryland Department of the Environment's Voluntary Cleanup Program, which provides benefits to companies, including clarification of liability provisions, for cleaning up their properties.
According to a fact sheet from MDE, "A Phase II ESA (Environmental Site Assessment) completed in May 2011 included the collection of soil, groundwater, surface water, and soil gas samples from the power plant area, mill building area, landfill area and other areas of the property.
"The samples identified the presence of lead in the soils near the mill building and power plant building and chlorinated solvents in the soil gas near the power plant building," the fact sheet read.
Jay Apperson, a spokesman for MDE, said the decision to demolish the building was a choice made by Simkins and the company must submit a plan for removing the contaminated soil.
"You can remove things above the soil, but not the soil, without this final response action plan," he said.
More information regarding the future of the site will be available once that plan is submitted.
For now, Quirk said he hopes the land will eventually become part of the neighboring Patapsco Valley State Park, perhaps used to add parking to the area.
"One of the issues that we have in that area is lack of parking for people that want to walk and bike close to the park on that side," Quirk said. "I know that's something that's being looked at."
John Slater, president of Patapsco Heritage Greenway, said he hopes to see the site preserved as a historical landmark.
Patapsco Heritage Greenway is a nonprofit organization whose aim is to preserve and protect the Patapsco Valley. Simkins Mill was an important part of the valley's history, Slater said.
"We would love to have that, the older stone building, preserved," Slater said. "But there's no money.
"To restore the building would be just completely out of the question financially," he said.
Instead, he hopes the park will retain the mill's foundation to show its significance.
"We are hopefully going to be able to retain an 18-inch seat wall out of the foundation," Slater said.
"Later, there could be some interpretive signage to say this is where the mill was, so people can have a sense of how big it was," he said.
Representatives from Simkins did not return requests for comment on the demolition schedule and plans for the site.