More than 30,000 gallons of pulping chemicals from the ND Paper mill in Old Town leaked into the Penobscot River earlier this month, violating state and federal laws, according to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
The mill suspended production after discovering that chemicals were spilling into the river through a ruptured underground sewer line and a failed floor drain on Oct. 7. It appears the spill happened periodically over a six-day span, said Brian Kavanah, director of the state agency’s bureau of water quality.
The mill reported the leak to the Department of Environmental Protection, which helped with the spill cleanup and repairs to the infrastructure the following day.
The agency is still investigating the spill, Kavanah said. It appears that the leak did not violate the mill’s effluent permit — which allows the mill to discharge some of its production waste into the river — but unlicensed chemical discharge into the river is a violation of state and federal laws, Kavanah said.
The mill restarted production Oct. 17, according to Brian Boland, vice president of government affairs and corporate initiatives at ND Paper, which also operates the paper mill in Rumford.
“Our priority is the safe operation of our facilities, in full compliance with all applicable rules and regulations,” he said.
The mill is still working to address the “root cause” of the spill and has had contractors on the property making repairs, Kavanah said. The facility is working to stop more chemicals from seeping into the river by trying to keep the contaminated water from flowing into the rest of it.
The Department of Environmental Protection will decide whether the mill faces any citation for the spill after it’s fully contained and the mill gives the agency a final report, Kavanah said.
Correction: The headline on a previous version of this article mistakenly described the mill in Old Town as a paper mill. It produces pulp.