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What to do With Giant Pile of Flammable Fiber? Maine Finds Answer
10/29/2013   Reported By: Keith Shortall

What to do with 27,000 tons of flammable fiber dumped onto a site in midcoast Maine? That was the problem that's been vexing the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for some time. A number of proposals for reusing the materials have surfaced in recent months. But state officials say they've finally found a safe and productive solution. Keith Shortall reports.

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The problem began about 14 years ago, when the 70-acre site had been the home of the former R.D. Outfitters rifle range. The owners at the time planned to use the material to build berms to keep bullets from straying off the property.

But the state determined that there was too much of the material on the property and took control of the site. The former owners paid more than $400,000 toward clean up, but the state has been trying to find a way to dispose of the material.

After seeking outside proposals for reuse of the material, the state has announced the winning idea: "Um, building material," says Melanie Loyzim, who directs the DEP's Bureau of Remediation and Waste Managment. She says the state has awarded the material to Massachussetts-based Triumverate Environmental, which will make composite lumber.

"They're going to compress it and squeeze it and extrude it," Loyzim says, "and we're going to go from having gigantic piles of shredded carpent material into building material that people can make decks and picnic benches and other things out of.

Loyzim says the material, which is commonly used to line automobile trunks, does not pose a significant envirnonmental danger - as long as it doesn't catch fire.

"In its current state, there's a significant amount of it and it has a lot of heat value," she says. "It would make a good alternative fuel, which is one of the things that had been contemplated. Unfortunately, in large quanities sitting on a site, one of the conerns the town of Warren has had is that it could pose a significant fire danger if the pile ever caught fire."

"It's like having tires out there - if nothing goes wrong with it, it's not harming the environment, but if it catches fire, it's horrible to put out," says Warren Town Selectman Eddie LaFlamme.

LaFlamme says the town has been working for the past 14 years to either have the material covered or hauled away. He's relieved to have a solution that the DEP thinks will be safe.

"They seem very excited that it's going to be an extremely minimal impact to the environment, getting rid of it in the way it's being proposed," LaFlamme says. "So right now we're thrilled with what we're hearing. But, again, I'm cautiously optimistic."

According the the DEP, Triumvirate Environmental plans to process the entire 27,000 tons of fiber into finished product on site in Warren by the end of December 2016, and to create as many as 16 new jobs.

The company was granted the award over three other bidders. One of the other proposals was to ship the material to Dragon Products in nearby Thomaston, where it would be burned as an alternative fuel.



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