Demolition slated to begin on vacant mill property in western Catonsville

The Simkins Mill on River Road, a long-abandoned eyesore in the community and host to much illegal dumping and trespassing, is scheduled to be demolished starting as early as mid-February.

Simkins Industries, owner of the 65.53 acre property that houses the mill and power plant, hired A2Z Environmental Group to complete the process.

"We estimate that we should be able to begin mid-February and we're due to complete the entire project by July 31," said Rita Holderby, owner of A2Z.

The 87,000-square-foot site, which was destroyed after a fire in 2003 and another in 2009, has been a community eyesore for years.

First District Councilman Tom Quirk has heard many complains from residents about illegal dumping pollution around the property.

"I'm very happy to learn that it's going to be cleaned up. I'm hopeful, though nothing is guaranteed...I'm hopeful that it will be absorbed by the park," Quirk said.

According to Jay Apperson, deputy director of communications with the Maryland Department of the Environment, said studies of the property had showed chemicals in the soil around the two buildings.

"In this case, the concerns that were identified included lead and a chemical that's a compound of fuel combustion in the soil," Apperson said.

Simkins is cleaning up the property as part of Maryland Department of the Environment's Voluntary Cleanup Program, which provides a company benefits, including clarification of liability provisions, in exchange for the company cleaning up the property.

According to Apperson, the company was given several options to address the soil contamination and eventually chose demolition to ensure contaminants be addressed.

Simkins originally wanted to leave the buildings standing, Apperson said, but the Maryland Department of the Environment warned that leaving them as they stood would not serve to properly decontaminate, or cap, the soil.

"As a result of our review, we expressed concerns about leaving the buildings standing, because they're a safety hazard and they don't act as an appropriate capping mechanism," Apperson said.

The scheduled demolition will, "allow soils to be evaluated under the building and allow any contamination to be addressed," he said.

Quirk is looking forward to seeing the area without the buildings and said the site will be an asset to the community.

"I advocated very strongly for this so I'm glad to see it moving forward," he said.

A representative from Simkins did not want to be quoted for this story.

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