Cleanup underway at Peter Paul site

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Cleanup is underway at the former Peter Paul site on New Haven Road in Naugatuck. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — Machines are at work again on the former Peter Paul factory grounds.

Trucks can be seen digging a huge crater on the 36-acre plot at 889 New Haven Road, where the Hershey candy company once operated the factory that made Mounds and Almond Joy chocolate bars. Now, in place of an old factory building or flat land, dirt has been piled up several stories high.

Although there has been no construction activity on the property since the building was demolished last year, the resurgence of work does not mean the property has been sold. An “Available” sign remains posted outside and David Prendergast, CEO of the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation, said he was not aware of any imminent sale.

Hershey is conducting environmental cleaning of the soil in conjunction with the state’s underground storage tank program, said Patrick Bowe, director of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s remediation division. The company is removing 20,000 cubic yards of soil, according to DEEP files.

Bowe said the program typically handles sites where oil from a heating tank or boiler has contaminated the soil.

The remediation has exposed foundations that were never removed, leading some to believe incorrectly that new foundations were being laid, Borough Engineer Wayne Zirolli said.

Land use officials said they had not been given any indication of a specific plan for the site.

“If they had a buyer or if they had any development, they would have to go through land use or get a permit,” Zirolli said.

The Peter Paul factory, 253,000 square feet of brick and glass, closed in 2007 when the company moved production to Virginia, leaving more than 200 local workers jobless. The building was razed in March 2011 and Hershey, despite lowering the price, has not managed to sell it to a retail developer as planned, Prendergast said.

The demolition and current remediation have not been done with a specific buyer in mind, but rather to increase the land’s market value, officials said.

“When they put it on the market, the market was very different than what it has been for the past few years,” Prendergast said. “They had competing offers at that time from retail developers that were interested in developing it for mixed retail use and they had several sample site plans laid out.”

After this year’s revaluation, the land is worth about $1.5 million, Assessor George Hlavacek said. Before the revaluation, the land was worth $3.9 million and earned the borough about $92,000 in taxes.