Mercury Delay

The legal delays and stall tactics employed by Mallinckrodt continue to hold back cleanup progress at the HoltraChem site in Orrington. After almost a year, the company still has not complied with the final BEP order that requires them to remove two leaking landfills on the site, repair the remaining three, and begin the rest of the work needed to restore the site to a safe standard and stop mercury from leaking into the Penobscot River. The company’s current objections have taken two forms – stalling progress on site and filing a legal appeal. Mallinckrodt is still attempting, even after a 21-month appeal before the Board of Environmental Protection, to get off the hook and they are rapidly falling behind the schedule issued by the Board.

On site, they have made some minimal efforts to comply with the Order by issuing plans and beginning to secure the site. However, the actual impacts of these small steps are questionable since the company continues to refuse to pay for an independent inspector of their work. Earlier this spring, the DEP reported that a fire had broken out on site destroying some of the equipment used to measure the amount of mercury in groundwater entering the river. This unfortunately occurred before the spring thaw, which is the period when the most water is moving through the site. Mallinckrodt’s objection to an independent inspector might be an unwillingness to pay for the position, which is a fraction of the percent of the entire cost of the cleanup, but they might also be afraid that independent inspection could lead to changes in the way they have been managing the site.

Mallinckrodt is also objecting to the removal of the smallest of the five landfills and the recapping and repair of the three that will remain on site. They continue to assure the town and the courts that the landfills are safe, despite new data from DEP testing in the fall of 2010 showing that these landfills continue to leak cholorpicrin (among other things) which was used as a chemical warfare agent in World War One. Instead of complying with the Order or seeking a stay from a judge, the company has proceeded to simply write plans that leave out necessary action on the landfills and to submit these flawed plans to the Department.

MPA recently moved to force Mallinckrodt to finish cleanup by seeking to become a party to the appeal the company has filed in Maine business court. If you want to help make the general public more aware of this situation, meet with others in the Penobscot River Valley, or simply learn more, call Ryan in the Bangor office at 990-0672.