ROCKLAND, Maine — The city once known for a multitude of bad smells has a new one to contend with, as a landfill fire that firefighters fought to extinguish over the weekend continued to smolder Tuesday.
Rockland Fire Chief Charles Jordan Jr. said Tuesday afternoon that he wasn’t worried about the fire spreading from the old quarry off Limerock Street that is the city’s solid waste facility but added that it needs to be put out because of the potential air quality problems.
Jordan said he is working on strategies to quell the landfill flames, with “Plan A” expected to be put into place Tuesday night and Wednesday.
“The plan is to wet it overnight and seal it tomorrow with some clay,” he said Tuesday afternoon.
The damping-down will serve to take away some of the fire’s heat, and the clay seal should remove its oxygen.
The chief said this was necessary because the landfill fire has no shortage of fuel.
“Building materials, demolition debris, general trash,” he said. “It’s the monument we’ve created to ourselves.”
If Plan A doesn’t work, Jordan is developing Plans B and C in order to be proactive, he said.
“I would suspect that if things don’t come to an end tomorrow, we’ll be looking at putting together a multiagency meeting for the end of the week,” he said. “If you don’t, you’re just behind the eight ball.”
One of the agencies included in that meeting would be the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, which has been contacted about the fire and is expected to send someone to the landfill Wednesday.
Jordan said Plan B likely would involve letting the water level rise in the quarry so the fire could be doused from beneath.
This isn’t a perfect solution, he said, because in the past, the water at the landfill mixed with the decomposing materials and created heat and a foul sulfur aroma, which caused complaints.
Now, water is pumped out of the quarry to avoid that problem.
“When we were digging around there yesterday, a lot of the bottom part of the quarry is tinder-dry,” he said.
Jordan said if he were given a choice between the smoke from the landfill fire and the smell from the quarry water, he would “take the decomposition odor,” but he would like to think it won’t come to that.
“Hopefully, it’s not going to burn too long,” he said. “Hopefully, the size of the fire underneath isn’t large.”
In the meantime, firefighters will keep monitoring air quality and trying to stay out of the smoke as they put water on it, Jordan said.