WARREN, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- For a dozen years, people in the town of Warren have had a major mess on their hands. and have been waiting for someone to clean it up.
Huge piles of a polyester fiber cover acres of the old rifle range property off Route 90. The material was dumped there in a deal between the owner of the land and the Maine DEP. But the owner apparently took the money and took off, leaving the stuff behind, and leaving the town and the state to figure a way to clean it all up.
Warren Selectman Ed LaFlamme says the problem dates back 13 years, and that the town has been trying all that time to get the DEP to step in and take on the clean up. The fiber material is like think carpet, and is waste left over from making the liners for the trunks of automobiles. It was manufactured by Gates Formed Fiber of Auburn, which had an agreement with the DEP to send the material to the Warren site for disposal.
The owner of the land was supposed to cover all that fiber with gravel and dirt to make huge berms to stop bullets and contain the noise from the rifle range. Some was covered, but most of it wasn't. Ed LaFlamme says there are huge piles of the material,some twenty feet high, two hundred feet wide and stretching for hundreds of yards. "It was three or four thousand tractor trailer loads," he says. The material isn't a pollution risk, but both LaFlamme and the DEP agree it's a serious fire hazard. "I don't think there's enough foam in the state of Maine to put it out if that caught fire," says LaFlamme.
And finally, the material may be close to getting cleaned up.
The DEP is considering four bids to haul the material away and put it to some sort of beneficial use. It won't give any details of the proposals, but the most prominent idea so far has been to shred the fiber and burn it for fuel at the Dragon Cement plant in nearby Thomaston. Town Manager Val Blastow says Dragon tested the material two years ago in its very hot manufacturing process, and that it burned well. The company reportedly has permission in its air emissions license to us the material.
The DEP won't say if any of the four proposals being considered would involve burning the waste at Dragon. However, Formed Fiber Technologies of Auburn, the successor to Gates Formed Fiber, says the waste it generates now, which is essentially the same material, is also burned at a cement plant in Canada.
The DEP says it can't give a timetable for a decision, let alone the actual cleanup. And even Ed LaFlamme says its likely to take a while. But he says simply having a plan and seeing the mountains of material finally begin to shrink will be real progress.