It was at once one of Maine’s great cultural landmarks and one of its festering sores: a 1,400-acre plot of land, abandoned since 2008, that had been the site of a major employer for the state: the Great Northern Paper Company’s engineering and research office in Millinocket. Its main building still stands — vacant, forgotten, leaking, rusting, yet still housing nearly 48,000 square feet of space. It produced, among other things sadly less useful nowadays, newsprint.
Earlier this month, fulfilling a dream of Millinocket’s 4,800 residents, Pleasanton, California-based Nautilus Data Technologies signed a 99-year lease to operate a data center in 13 acres of the old paper mill site. Central to Nautilus’ plans will be its intent to deploy a full-cycle water cooling system in the facility — one that will not draw a single ounce from the area’s drinking water supply.
Nautilus holds the patent for the configuration of a thermal containment system that utilizes a closed-loop cooling unit, recirculating the liquid that extracts heat from the air. This liquid need not be clean water. In fact, for its unique floating data center facility in Stockton, California (which would be groundbreaking if it did, in fact, reside on the ground) Nautilus uses ordinary sea water for the closed-loop unit.
According to public documents, the mill site still has two large intakes for process water, plus its own waste water treatment plant.
Now, with the company quickly gaining a reputation in the Northeast US for pledging to respect the environment, Nautilus finds itself having made a further pledge to a local reporter. Bangor Daily News’ Lia Russell reported Tuesday that a Nautilus spokesperson had told her preparation of the site for construction would include “a lot of debris removal.”
How much is “a lot?” It turns out, the site’s owner had been keeping records, which the city — during the many years it had been scouting for a potential tenant to save the site — made public.
When the site was surveyed in March and April 2017 by Eastern Mold Remediation, Inc., its walls and ceilings were falling victim to what inspectors called “moderate to severe microbial growth.”
“Severe water staining is visible on acoustic ceiling tiles, wall-to-wall carpet, tile floors and exposed cement slabs,” reads the inspection team’s report for the third floor of the old mill’s research building. “Standing water is visible on sections of carpet, tile floors and cement slab as deep as 1″ in some areas and is frozen in several areas.”
Ceiling tiles were left where they were when the building was abandoned, and many just dropped. All the floor tiles will need to be safely disposed of. There’s rust on most every visible piece…