AUGUSTA, Maine — Four companies submitted proposals Wednesday to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection on how to reuse 27,000 tons of fiber materials that have been stored in Warren for 14 years.
The DEP will carefully review the bids and is under no obligation to make a decision within a certain time frame, said Jessamine Logan, the department’s director of communications. But, she said, she expects a decision in the near future.
The University of Maine, S.J. Clisham of Winterport, Farley & Sons Landscaping of Rockport and Triumvirate Environmental Inc. of Somerville, Mass., submitted proposals.
The proposals are not public documents until the department has made a decision, Logan said.
The DEP has been working on ways to get rid of the material since it was dumped at the former rifle range property off Route 90 in the late 1990s.
Last month, Gov. Paul LePage applauded the department’s effort in a news release, saying that the agency was offering “an opportunity to use what was once considered waste and turn it into an alternative fuel, thus reducing impacts to our environment and creating new, innovative jobs.”
Douglas Gardner with the school of forest resources at the University of Maine said that the university’s proposal is to conduct a feasibility study on whether the waste fiber can be used as material for road construction.
The material does create a conundrum, Gardner said, because it consists of two types of plastic, so recyclers don’t want it. The cost to dispose of it at a landfill, which the state does not want to do, would be in excess of $1.2 million, he said.
Also, the cost to shred the material is projected at $90 per ton, with another $30-$40 per ton for transportation, the university official said.
He expects a decision by the state in the next two to three weeks.
Steve Clisham of the Winterport company said his firm’s proposal is to process the material and transport it. One option is for it to be taken to Dragon Products cement plant in Thomaston, where it could be used as an alternative source of fuel, he said.
Mike Farrell of Triumvirate said he did not want to comment on his company’s proposal, but did state that processing and transporting the material for Dragon Products was not an option the firm was pursuing.
Tom Farley of Farley & Sons said he also wanted to wait for the state to make a decision before discussing his company’s proposal.
The 70-acre site in Warren had been the home of the former R.D. Outfitters rifle range. When the owner of that facility brought in the material during the late 1990s, he said it was to be used as berms to stop bullets from going off the property. But opponents questioned whether he was simply using the property as an unlicensed dump to make money by accepting material from the former Gates Formed Fibre of Auburn.
The DEP estimated that the owner — Steamship Navigation, whose principals were Randy and Cathy Dunican — received $1 million to have the fiber wastes dumped on their property.
The DEP ultimately went to court to take control of the site after Steamship said it had no money to complete the berm project, which would have consisted of covering the fiber with dirt. The DEP received $410,000 from the former owner in the court action to assist in the cleanup.
The material is considered hazardous because it is highly flammable and difficult to put out if ignited. The town of Warren has been working for the past 14 years to get the material covered or removed.
The town has declined for more than the past decade to foreclose on the property even though the owner has not paid property taxes. Town officials have been fearful of taking over the property and being liable for any damages caused by the wastes on site.
Earlier this month, the neighboring town of Thomaston expressed concerns about what the DEP was planning to do with the wastes, particularly if it was going to be transported into town for Dragon.