NAUGATUCK — The 36-acre parcel on New Haven Road, former home of the Peter Paul candy factory, is now as flat as it was before an environmental cleanup began last fall.
The difference is that more than 12,000 cubic yards of soil contaminated with petroleum have been removed and shipped away, according to Dennis Schain, spokesman for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Environmental Waste Minimization, based in Pennsylvania, began in October to clean the site where an underground fuel tank had leaked before Hershey bought the land and building in 1988. Hershey removed the tank immediately after the purchase, but could not remediate all the soil because some was under the building’s foundation. After the building’s demolition two years ago, the company decided to finish the cleanup to improve the land’s marketability.
A Hershey spokesman could not be reached for comment.
David Prendergast, CEO of the Naugatuck Economic Development Corp., said he has not been made aware of any changes to the parcel’s $7.4 million asking price, or of any possible sales.
“I think they’re being proactive in working on the property to put it in a better position for sale,” Prendergast said. “They’re still focused really on a retail development use, which is still the slower end of the real estate market right now.”
With the cleanup done, Prendergast said he hoped interest in the property would increase.
“We’re anxious to see something happen there,” Prendergast said. “It’s a development opportunity. It’s an opportunity for us to create jobs and create tax base, so we’re working with them.”
Contaminated soil had been found 45 feet below ground, so nearly 53,000 cubic yards of uncontaminated soil had to be removed to create safe excavation side slopes, according to Schain. It was stockpiled on site, creating mountains of material about as tall as the former factory building, and lots of speculation among the locals.
By February, samples from the bottom and side walls of the excavation crater were coming up clean, according to Schain. Workers finished backfilling the crater in late April, and the machinery associated with the cleanup is now nowhere to be found.
Hershey also had two sumps installed in the center of the crater to provide access to groundwater if contamination is identified in the future, according to Schain.
The factory closed in 2007 when the company moved production to Virginia, leaving more than 200 local workers jobless. The same year, a proposal for a Lowe’s home improvement center, a small steak house and a third small store on that land seemed likely, but never materialized.
Borough officials have said they would like to see another industrial tenant on that land, with machinery that would bring in tax revenue, but the asking price has been too high for industrial buyers.
The land is now worth $1.5 million after last year’s revaluation.