AUGUSTA, Maine — An Orrington town official testified before the Maine Board of Environmental Protection on Thursday — the last day of testimony about the cleanup of the former HoltraChem site — that a quicker cleanup is better for town than an extensive one.
“One of our key concerns is that the cleanup of the site has yet to begin in earnest, and it’s been 10 years,” Town Manager Paul White told the panel during hearings in Augusta. “It seems to be plainly understood by everyone involved in this matter that if the commissioner’s order is imposed on Mallinckrodt, there will be further litigation … that would result in a further delay of three to five years with nothing being done.”
For that reason, the town is supporting a “source removal alternative” proposed by St. Louis-based Mallinckrodt, which operated a chemical factory at the site until 2000, but has several conditions attached to their support. White provided a copy of his speech to the Bangor Daily News on Thursday afternoon.
Mallinckrodt is fighting an order from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, issued by Commissioner David Littell, to remove 360,000 tons of contaminated soil that now rest in five outdated landfills on the site.
The Maine Board of Environmental Protection, which has the final say in deciding the scope of the cleanup, concluded two weeks of hearings on the cleanup on Thursday with White’s testimony.
Mallinckrodt officials are supporting a “source removal alternative” that would take out 73,200 tons of contaminated soils from the main polluter — Landfill 1 — and other contaminated areas that would equal about half the amount the DEP wants gone. They’re also proposing recapping Landfill 2 and leaving the other three landfills untouched on-site.
This “source removal alternative” proposal, created by Woodard & Curran of Portland, “only surfaced after the commission ordered the dig and haul remedy,” White said.
The DEP plan would cost Mallinckrodt, which already has spent around $40 million removing hazardous mercury and other remnants of the former chemical factory, between $200 million and $250 million and would take five to six years, Littell said last week.
A brochure distributed by Mallinckrodt to local residents, however, says the intensive cleanup would “take up to 12 years to implement (after appeals, planning and permits).”
Mallinckrodt’s “source removal alternative” would cost between $95 million and $100 million, JoAnna Schooler, company spokeswoman, said last week.
White said the town supports both the DEP plan and the one put forth by Mallinckrodt, but because of the possible cleanup delay caused by any litigation, it is supporting the one the chemical company supports. The conditions that go along with the town’s support include Mallinckrodt purchasing the contaminated portion of the site from the town, that the cleanup begins immediately, that Mallinckrodt provide a financial guarantee to do the work and future monitoring, and that public water be extended to the site and paid for by Mallinckrodt.
“I think the town of Orrington’s support of our plan shows how protective and comprehensive our cleanup plan is,” Schooler said Thursday afternoon. “We look forward to working collaboratively with the town in getting back to work at the site.”
The BEP is expected to decide in the next couple of months how the cleanup should proceed.