Cleanup of 15-year-old Warren waste pile hits another delay

Pictured is one of the piles of fiber material stored on 70 acres in Warren at a former rifle range.
Stephen Betts | BDN
Pictured is one of the piles of fiber material stored on 70 acres in Warren at a former rifle range. Buy Photo
Posted July 19, 2014, at 9:21 a.m.

WARREN, Maine — Lack of appropriate electrical power is once again delaying the cleanup of 27,000 tons of fiber materials that have plagued the town for 15 years.

Last October, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection announced it awarded a contract to Triumvirate Environmental Inc. of Somerville, Massachusetts. The contract called for the company to recycle the fiber wastes into composite lumber, cleaning up the massive mountains of wastes and creating up to 16 jobs.

“We had intended that they would’ve already been making boards now before we hit the roadblock of lacking three-phase power on a portion of the state route,” said Melanie Loyzim, director of the of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s bureau of remediation and waste management on Friday.

The DEP official said the revised project schedule has not yet been established between the DEP, town and company, but she expects a lot more activity in the next few months.

Warren Town Manager Elaine Clark said the DEP has been very good at keeping the town informed throughout the process.

The town manager said the DEP entered into a contract with Central Maine Power to design a three-phase power line to the rifle range site. The project was more complex than anticipated. A cost estimate on constructing the power system has yet to be presented to the town and DEP and no date for that is yet known, she said.

Commissioner Patricia Aho plans to attend a selectmen meeting in October to discuss the project, Clark said.

The 70-acre site on Route 90 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 the rifle range 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 went to court and received $410,000 from the former owner to assist in with cleanup costs.

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 15 years to cover or remove the material.

Triumvirate’s plan is to set up a high-technology processing facility at the Route 90 property. Triumvirate stated in its bid proposal that it would create a minimum of eight new jobs with a high of 16 when in full production. Those numbers did not include additional indirect jobs, the DEP said last year.

Triumvirate planned to process the entire 27,000 tons of fiber into finished product by the end of December 2016. A telephone message left with the company Friday afternoon was not immediately returned on what impact the power problem would have on that schedule.

“I’m also pleased that because of DEP actions, the Town of Warren will finally have this property cleaned up so it can be put back into productive use,” Aho said last fall.

Four companies submitted proposals to the DEP in September.

The other bidders were from the University of Maine, S.J. Clisham of Winterport, and Farley & Sons Landscaping of Rockport.

Last year, the neighboring town of Thomaston expressed concerns about what the DEP was planning to do with the waste, particularly if it was going to be transported into town for Dragon Cement. Dragon considered using the material as an alternate fuel source for its cement plant.

The town has declined for more than a 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.

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