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State says Dragon violated air quality permit again

Dust pile also led to complaint
By Stephen Betts and Christine Simmonds | Nov 25, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts Jeff Woodman of Mainely Lobster and Seafood in Thomaston said dust from a large pile behind Dragon Products covers his vehicles and gets into filters used for the company's cooling system.

Thomaston — Dragon Products has again violated its air emissions permit, the state announced last week.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection notified the town of Thomaston Nov. 17 of the notice of violation sent to the cement plant. The notice was sent to Thomaston Town Manager Kara George. The Thomaston Select Board discussed the notice at their Nov. 23 meeting.

The state environmental agency maintains that Dragon exceeded the amount of particulate matter emitted during a smokestack test April 28. A subsequent test June 5 found the cement plant was in compliance with its state permit.

The state is seeking an unspecified monetary penalty.

Thomaston Pollution Control Superintendent John Fancy said the notice was an alleged violation, and Dragon had 15 days to respond.

Fancy said the notice was to inform Dragon of the need to contact the Department of Environmental Protection about the matter, and there may or may not be a fine put in place. “Basically, nothing is cast in concrete at this point,” he added.

George said Dragon’s Environmental Manager Anna Hooper called her before the email was sent. Hooper said she would be happy to talk with anyone who had further questions.

Board Chair Pete Lammert suggested George could invite Hooper to the next board meeting, and the matter was tabled.

In addition to this violation, the owner of a business located near the cement plant reported that its vehicles and equipment is being covered with dust from the waste pile stacked behind the plant.

Jeff Woodman of Mainely Lobster and Seafood said in October, the problem has become worse during the past year. Woodman has operated his business for 10 years at the site.

He said security cameras appear to show fog all the time, but it is the dust from the pile that sticks to everything.

Vehicles have to be pressure washed and even then the material sticks to the body of the trucks, he said.

Of more concern to Woodman is the impact, the dust has on the air filters in the cooling system for the seafood.

Dragon's environmental, safety and health manager Anna Hooper said back in October that the plant has a requirement to keep the pile covered with an earthen material and vegetation. She said the exception is the relatively small portion of the pile being actively recycled into the process.

"We are very responsive to our neighbors when they contact us," Hooper said. "We generally reach back to them and myself and our local human resources manager may visit and meet with our neighbors to better understand the nature of their concerns or questions."

The dust pile originated from the cement making process. The dust was collected from a dust control system as opposed to allowing it to vent into the atmosphere during the making of cement clinker in the kiln.

In the past, the dust was simply collected and stored outside, but today, the process has changed in that they now recycle 100% of the “clinker kiln dust” back into the cement manufacturing process.

But the large pile from decades of manufacturing remains outside.

In July, Dragon Products agreed to pay a civil penalty of $66,937 for violating its air emissions permit over a six-year period.

The Maine Board of Environmental Protection and Maine Attorney General's Office approved a consent agreement in July with Dragon Products.

The violations were discovered following an investigation that began in 2016 when the plant failed an ammonia emission stack test. A notice of violation was issued May 2017.

The DEP typically investigates to see if there are additional violations once a violation is identified. In this case, the state environmental agency went back and reviewed tests going back to 2013, said Tracy Kelly a compliance and enforcement officer with the DEP's air quality bureau.

The DEP began negotiating the consent agreement in December 2019.

The DEP determined that Dragon Products exceeded its ammonia limits in its emissions from the manufacturing kiln on multiple occasions during 2016, exceeded its carbon monoxide emissions on multiple occasions in 2015 and 2016, and exceeded its particulate release in 2015.

The environmental agency also listed other violations from 2013 through 2018 including failing to record accurate and reliable data for nearly all of the fourth quarter of 2015.

In 2015, 2016 and 2017, Dragon exceeded its opacity standards. Opacity is a measure of visible emissions coming from a stack, essentially the particles that make up the smoke, Kelly said. There are different types of smoke, like white or black, and a percentage is an evaluation of opacity. The measurement can be taken by an individual trained to do so, or can be measured and recorded by an instrument in a stack, called a Continuous Opacity Monitor, Kelly said.

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Comments (11)
Posted by: Valerie Wass | Nov 27, 2020 10:32

Not complaining at all Richard and Stephen.  Stating facts as I know them.



Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Nov 26, 2020 14:53

Steve, they will just find something else to complain about like the prices at Lowe's and Walmart.



Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Nov 26, 2020 10:58

Well if Dragon is such a trouble maker, perhaps we should suggest they shut the whole thing down and move to Georgia where their other plants are.  Hopefully the loss of taxes would be covered by Walmart & Lowes.  Once Thomaston becomes another Ghost town the air quality complaints might subside.



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Nov 25, 2020 14:56

Dick,

yep, they want to look good. Money!!’n



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Nov 25, 2020 14:55

Don,

Exactly!  They have so much money. They need to keep their status quo with the town of Thomaston and its citizens.  Never mind what they are releasing into the air.



Posted by: Janie Jacques | Nov 25, 2020 13:27

I've lived on the end of Thomaston St. all but 5 years of my life and Dragon

always do what they want. They pay too much in taxes to cross them. I think ChemRock is as bad as Dragon.

 



Posted by: Don Dickinson | Nov 25, 2020 11:49

Not defending Dragon Cement for violating their emissions permits or the dust pile situation here. However, that big corporation that you're so quick to bash and think doesn't care about their neighbors is saving the town big bucks with their purchase of new air packs for the fire department. Just saying.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 The board approved the bid of $119,368.88 from Fire and Safety of New England Inc. to purchase 20 airpacks for the Thomaston Fire Department. This purchase, funded through the Dragon Cement TIF, was approved by voters at the September Town Meeting as well.



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Nov 25, 2020 09:19

I do not see any earthen material and vegetation on that big pile of cement dust in the background of the picture.  I believe that Dragon really doesn't care about the people living around their messes.  They don't care because when they get a violation and have to pay the fine, they do.  Problem solved for now.  Until it keeps on coming up again and again.  The State needs to crack down on Dragon and give them no fine but give them so many days to fix the problem.



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Nov 25, 2020 09:16

Laws have changed, Stephen.  The violations that have been apposed on Dragon Cement do no good.  They get a fine, they can pay it off because they have the money.  It's not just Dragon's fault but the State's as well for not pushing Dragon to take care of the violations permanently.



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Nov 25, 2020 09:10

Just goes to show lol of us that big corporations keep getting away with everything.

 

 

 



Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Nov 25, 2020 08:36

Many years ago I asked a senior official at Dragon why they were constructing  mountains, one behind the plant and the other on Old County Rd.  They said it was the remaining materials left over from the cement making process. Of course I said "Well why not just dump it back in the hole ? " and he said they were required by the DEP to locate the materials off site and NOT place them back in the quarry.  Now years later the State is peanalizeing Dragon for the very thing they required it to do.



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