BELFAST, Maine — If you hear sirens or see hazmat suits on the Belfast waterfront on Oct. 8, it’s only a drill.
Belfast first responders, the Waldo County Emergency Management Agency and Penobscot McCrum, a downtown potato-processing facility, are holding an emergency preparedness drill at the McCrum plant from about 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Oct. 8.
“This exercise will test emergency response procedures resulting from an ammonia release,” Dale Rowley, director of WCEMA, said in a Wednesday news release. “You may see responders in chemical suits. This is a simulation, and there will not be any actual chemical hazards present.”
McCrum paid about $140,000 in penalties this summer after settling U.S. Environmental Protection Agency claims that the company had violated federal clean air laws. Safety inspectors said the company underreported the amount of ammonia used at the plant in the process of freezing products and had failed to develop appropriate emergency plans in case of ammonia leaks, prompting the claim.
Of the fines, about $83,000 was dedicated to purchasing equipment for emergency responders and on public safety improvements at the facility, including more advanced ammonia detection, alarm and security systems.
The new equipment and emergency procedures will be put to the test during this weekend’s ammonia emergency drill.
Emergency vehicles and responders will assemble around River Avenue and Field and Pierce streets in the morning. WCEMA is asking that the public avoid that area if possible.
Test sirens blared at McCrum around 1 p.m. Wednesday, as the company tested its system in advance of the drill.
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.