ORRINGTON, Maine — A trash truck that had just dropped off a load to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. snagged some power lines at the main entrance, ripped them down, overturned, and broke a utility pole, causing a power outage and the closure of part of Route 15 for five hours early Monday.
“This was my first day back from vacation, and first thing this morning I sat down at the computer, turned it on and the lights flickered. Then we got the call,” said Orrington Fire Chief Michael Spencer, who was one of 10 firefighters in three engines to respond to the plant entrance at 29 Industrial Way. “Hydro was here by about 7:30 [a.m.] and they brought another 14 workers.”
The outage, which affected about 1,000 customers of Bangor Hydro-Electric Co., also led to the early dismissal of all students at Center Drive School and closure of the Orrington Town Office at noon.
Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Jon Carson was the first on the scene.
“I was here in about two minutes because I live right up the road and the fire department was right behind me,” Carson said. “I told the driver to stay in because the transformer was right on top of the truck. We were afraid the truck might have been energized, so if the driver had touched any metal inside the truck, it could have been dangerous.”
The driver of the three-axle, 26,000-pound-plus, roll-off hydraulic dump truck was identified as Michael Thompson, 51, of Rockland. As he was headed back to Warren, he apparently neglected to lower his angled Dumpster “trailer” to its normal horizontal position, Carson said. The extended trailer caught on some utility wires, causing the truck to fall over on its side, damaging the pole and disconnecting wires. The rollover occurred about 7 a.m.
“After speaking with the driver and his foreman, they stop at some point on the road and put the top up to make sure there’s nothing loose, take the tarp off and stow it away,” said Carson. “It appears that he didn’t put the top down, so as he was leaving, it fetched up on the wires and as he was driving, it pulled more and more and pulled the truck right over on its side and crushed the telephone pole.”
A rescue unit from Brewer also helped at the accident scene.
“The driver was a little shaken up. He had a hand injury but didn’t want treatment,” said Carson.
The stretch of Route 15 between Snows Corner Road and Center Drive was closed off while utility crews repaired the damage. Traffic was rerouted between 7 a.m. and noon. The road was reopened around noon.
“Going north, they’d have to go up Center Drive, left onto Johnson Mill, left on Dow Road and then onto Snows Corner,” said Carson. “South traffic went from Snows Corner and the opposite way.”
A fiber optic cable used by Time Warner Cable was dislodged but not broken, so Internet and other users did not lose service despite the power disruption.
“They were amazed that it hadn’t broken,” said Spencer. “This could have been catastrophic. We could have lost someone here for sure.”
Bangor Hydro restored power by 11:30 a.m.
The PERC plant was shut down for five hours as trucks could not enter or exit the facility after the accident. At least a dozen trucks were parked at a nearby Mobil On the Run gas station at Snows Corner waiting to enter the facility.
PERC plant manager Peter Prata was attending an out-of-town meeting and was unavailable for comment.