In an Aug. 15 press release, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said it had reached a consent agreement with Artisan Boatworks Inc. over improper handling of hazardous waste.

Under the agreement, Artisan will pay an $8,750 civil fine in installments. The company violated DEP rules concerning identification of hazardous wastes, DEP standards for generators of hazardous waste and DEP waste oil management rules, the press release said. After DEP got involved, Artisan submitted to the department information stating that it had taken corrective actions including making hazardous waste determinations, hiring a licensed hazardous waste transporter and shipping hazardous waste using a hazardous waste manifest to an authorized hazardous waste facility, properly marking and labeling hazardous waste containers, shipping universal waste off-site for recycling, and managing universal waste according to DEP rules, the press release said.

Commenting on the settlement Tuesday, Aug. 19, Artisan founder and President Alec Brainerd said the company, begun in 2002, builds and restores primarily wooden boats, and does not use a high volume of hazardous chemicals.

Artisan was transferring used oil from the boats it worked on and used paint thinner to a facility that burned it as a heat source, not realizing that doing so violated a number of DEP regulations, he explained.

It was a blow to learn of the violations, he said, because "we've always taken a lot of pride in our compliance."

Brainerd noted that he and his wife and family live on the boatworks site, and get their drinking water from a well there. "We've always endeavored to be … as environmentally responsible as possible."

He acknowledged that the fine was fair. "I'll be the first to admit that [lack of awareness of the law] does not exonerate us," he said. However, he added that he wished his education in this area had not come at such a high price, calling the fine "crippling." The payment schedule Artisan worked out with DEP will allow the company to survive, he said, but it will still take several years to recover from the effects of the fine.