Dark smoke was seen billowing from the stack at FMC BioPolymer at Lermond Cove the evening of July 22, a mishap that was controlled internally by the company, said Rockland Fire Chief Adam Miceli.

The chief said the smoke was caused by a boiler system malfunction. Generally, when smoke is black and thick, it is caused by incomplete combustion from something not burning efficiently, he said.

In a letter to City Councilors from Mayor Larry Pritchett, he said, according to FMC, the problem was a component in the system that regulates the air/fuel mixture in one boiler failed and was supplying too much fuel. This incorrect fuel mixture was burning poorly and producing a lot of dense black smoke.

The fire department was notified by FMC, but was not requested to come to the scene. Miceli said dispatch received about 50 calls and the department fielded about 25 calls from citizens reporting the smoke.

Miceli said FMC controlled the malfunction quickly. "They are very process-oriented there, so as soon as they could shut it down and clear it out, it was over," he said.

In a press release from FMC, the company said it notified the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and an investigation is ongoing as well as implementation of improvements.

The smoke is not considered by DEP to be dangerous, the release said.

FMC is contracting Knight Marine Service to clean affected vessels, but said the soot can be washed from objects with water, according to the release.

FMC provided the Community Advisory Panel with a summary report about what happened.

The plant on Lime Street is the largest carrageenan manufacturer in the world and the only plant of its kind in North America. FMC extracts carrageenan from seaweed for use in a number of food, personal care and pharmaceutical products. The company employs 140 people.

Courier Publications' reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at jlaaka@courierpublicationsllc.com.