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Thomaston cement plant pays penalty for air quality violations

By Stephen Betts | Aug 15, 2020

Thomaston — The Dragon Products cement plant in Thomaston agreed last month 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.

The DEP has a policy for calculating penalties for violations.

"The goal is to deter violations of environmental laws, remove any competitive advantage that comes from noncompliance, and to provide general deterrence within society when the monetary consequences of environmental law violations are observed," Kelly said.

In the past 20 years, Dragon has entered into five administrative consent agreements which includes the one approved in July with the DEP.

An email was sent to Dragon Aug. 14. There was no immediate response.

In 2018, Dragon Products in Thomaston reported 3,835 pounds of ammonia, 255 pounds of manganese compounds, 250 pounds of chromium, seven pounds of lead compounds, 12 pounds of mercury, six pounds of polycyclic aromatic compounds, five pounds of Trimethylbenzene and five pounds of n-hexane were disposed of on-site or released into the air.

The combustion of fuel during the cement-making process is the source of the majority of compounds released.

 

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Comments (18)
Posted by: T A Schwab | Aug 18, 2020 10:06

You are correct Valerie, but the chemicals are airborne so they don’t just stay in Thomaston. So all on the Midcoast should be concerned.



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Aug 18, 2020 07:26

The following is an expert from the article, dated 1/6/2020, regarding emissions from Dragon.

 

"

Dragon Products in Thomaston reported 3,835 pounds of ammonia, 255 pounds of manganese compounds, 250 pounds of chromium, seven pounds of lead compounds, 12 pounds of mercury, six pounds of polycyclic aromatic compounds, five pounds of Trimethylbenzene, and five pounds of n-hexane were disposed of on-site or released into the air.

Michael Martunas of Dragon Products said the majority of the company's report involves permitted releases from the production of cement. The combustion of fuel during the cement-making process is the source of the majority of compounds released. Martunuas said sources of some compounds released -- such as mercury and lead -- can be found naturally in the local limestone.

The Dragon official said Dragon is subject to the most stringent Portland cement maximum achievable control technology standards established by the EPA and Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

"Dragon is currently in compliance with all the control technology requirements. In order to meet those requirements, Dragon has installed the latest technology to control its permitted emissions," he said.

The company said it is not aware of any health studies conducted in the area about the health impact of such releases."

 

I would suggest that the residence of Thomaston email or write to the Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Protection Agency.  Unless the community comes together and really raises a stink and goes up against this unruly corporation, Dragon will continue to break the laws and never think twice about it.



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Aug 18, 2020 07:17

You can copy and paste Janet's links into your browser.  However, you will have to be a member of Village Soup in order to read the article.

 



Posted by: Janet Ruth Dearborn | Aug 17, 2020 19:36

I apologize the links didn't transfer, but it might be good for everyone to search here for articles on the Dragon Cement Plant. One article dates to January 15, 2019 ....Toxic Emissions Feared, five residents attended that meeting, not a good turnout for something as important at this. The article discusses their fuel of choice, they are using used carpeting trucked in from Lewiston and they expressed a desire to explore other potential sources..plastics.

 

So much of what happens in Thomaston is reactive, after the fact outrage about what we might be breathing, a little proactive behavior might be in order. The lack of participation on the part of the residents can't be dismissed. But, inadequate advance notice of meetings and inconvenient meeting times preventing many from attending should cease. On August 18, 2020 there is a hearing scheduled on the crematorium from 3:00 - 5:00 PM, but the second meeting is scheduled to be at Hall's Funeral Home. Why are residents being asked to go to the applicant's place of business? Let's not forget we are in the midst of a pandemic, many people have been quarantined for five months, going to the Common Room is daunting enough for the immune compromised in this community. ZOOM is not the most user friendly approach for public input.

 

We always seem to be scrambling after the fact, the Dollar Store comes to mind, running around trying to change the zoning while the applicant sat in the audience. How does a project get to that stage without more notice? Or, was notice given and no one attended? Whatever the reason, something has to change. Sitting back, being apathetic and objecting in the eleventh hour doesn't seem to be much of a game plan.

 



Posted by: Janet Ruth Dearborn | Aug 17, 2020 19:01

https://knox.villagesoup.com/p/threat-of-toxic-emissions-road-wear-among-concerns-expressed-on-dragon-plans/1797166

FUEL SOURCES AT DRAGON CEMENT.

 

 



Posted by: Janet Ruth Dearborn | Aug 17, 2020 18:55

https://knox.villagesoup.com/p/these-are-the-toxic-chemicals-in-our-neighborhood/1846302

Previous Village Soup article...January 2020

 



Posted by: Alexander Hernandez | Aug 17, 2020 16:29

The last sentence of this article states that the fuel consumed during the cement making process is the leading cause for the pollutants.  What exactly is the fuel that they are using?



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Aug 17, 2020 14:52

This amount is just a slap on the wrist for them

 



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Aug 17, 2020 14:51

ananur forma,

I also caught onto the State not following up with it's checking on the plant after the citations.  This is the State's fault.  Although, Dragon is held accountable for not fixing the problem six years ago.  Dragon, as with any big corporation, is it in for the money.  They do not care about the health and well being of people living near there. 



Posted by: Janie Jacques | Aug 16, 2020 17:19

I've lived on the end of Thomaston St. behind the cement plant for 64 of my 69 years and have learned one thing about  Dragon. They do what they want. The town needs their tax dollars so complaints do n o good talking to them. I will tell you all that Chem-Rock is nearly as bad as Dragon. Somebody should check into that.

 

 

 



Posted by: ANANUR FORMA | Aug 16, 2020 11:24

Wondering if the neighbors have a civil suit filed with a reputable attorney?

This is a "crime" against the  beloved environment, innocent animals and innocent human beings who are also loved.



Posted by: T A Schwab | Aug 16, 2020 10:26

Maine had a Republican Governor for 8 years before trump, so the EPA in Maine wasn’t doing there job for a long time. The closer I get to dragon when driving trees and plants are covered in orange and look dead. The people of Thomaston must be concerned but the poison is airborne so it  knows no boundaries. What is the next step what do we do as citizens to make sure this doesn’t happen again?



Posted by: Jack S Copp | Aug 16, 2020 07:42

What a disgrace!  Another toothless slap on the wrist by our EPA who's job it is is to protect us, to a multi-million dollar company who in all likelihood will do nothing to clean up their poisonous outflows! I mean would you, as a company, make a huge investment in scrubbers and other equipment to remove poisonous by product from you process if the fine you had to pay was only $5,578.00 a year? Probably not! After all, that ridiculous fine is like lunch money for their CEO! This situation reminds me of a farcical poem from Mad Magazine way back in the 1970's  ( paraphrasing) " Murry had a smelting plant that made the people frown. For every time it poured out its waste, it turned the river brown. The people came from miles around to show their opposition, but Murry laughed right in their face and tore up their petition.  The people took their case to court, and Murry heard the judge, declare his plant must nevermore pour out its icky sludge. The judge invoked an ancient law from 1859, which said that Murry had to pay a $15 dollar fine! Should Murry not obey the law, it's good to know that when he's hauled back in, he'll have to pay that $15 bucks again."



Posted by: ANANUR FORMA | Aug 16, 2020 07:16

Liked your comment about the plant and its affects on community health. Going to get a little technical on you here since this was my area of expertise. Like with everything, one always needs to ask "what is really going on here"?

This was sent to me by a good  friend who reads knox village soup from out of state......

 

To explain, all State and Federal Environmental agencies (ie., Maine Environmental Department) are made up of two branches, the Regulatory side which issues regulations and the Enforcement side which holds those accountable for not following environmental regulations. In the Dragon Plant case, it "appears" the Enforcement side did NOT do their job because issuing citations going back to 5, 6 and 7 years ago is way after the fact and after people's health has been compromised to hazardous air pollutants. This does not protect the innocent but does make a weak appearance to the community that they are doing their enforcement job.

 

All facilities like this, even nuclear plants like the one I worked at, have Managers that suppress negative information on a daily basis to ...maintain their position or increase promotion chances. That unfortunately is human nature and the way things truly are for many facilities. But, by law all industrial companies are required to complete an annual Air Emissions Inventory (AEI) that identifies all their non-compliant data points for the year, that includes the Dragon Plant. These are required by another set of regulations called NESHAPS, which stands for the National Environmental Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants.

 

I agree, enough techno jargon so what does this mean? It means that the real hidden issue here is that the State did not do their job enforcing their actions in a timely manner based on the historical information the company provided them in their annual reports. By the time enforcement came around the innocent neighbors had already been exposed multiple times over multiple years. That to me is the real problem here since like I said most companies will try to get by with as much as they can. So, there are two culprits, the Dragon Plant and the Maine Environmental Dept. which, in their defense, operates on a short budget. Now, expand these air problems nationwide under Trump who favors reducing all environmental regulations, and you can see how the entire country faces serious issues down to every drop of air we breathe.

from Ananur - I have great concern for our neighboring residents who are breathing in this poison.

 



Posted by: Janet Ruth Dearborn | Aug 16, 2020 01:44

A question to be asked would be if the stack emissions are reflective of Dragon's recent change of burning used carpeting as a fuel source. The mercury should be of concern to all residents, it is a cumulative bioaccumulative, toxic pollutant. It accumulates in water, then enters the food chain.

 

Mercury in any form is poisonous, it can be inhaled, ingested or enter the body through the skin. Mercury causes brain damage, learning disabilities and other birth defects in children, among other harm. Mercury is most harmful during the developmental stages, so young children and pregnant or breastfeeding women need to be extremely conscious about their proximity to industrial facilities, i.e cement kilns and consumption of certain foods like fish.  Mercury poisoning primarily causes neurological issues, cerebral palsy in children as an example. Certain amalgam dental fillings may be upwards of 50% mercury,  most dentists choose to use contemporary materials.

 

In 2018, Trump ordered a rollback of mercury regulations in an effort to assist the coal industry, the largest mercury polluter. This suited the administrations deregulatory aims, to target an Obama-era regulation which is widely credited with dramatically reducing toxic mercury pollution. This only increases the need for more stringent monitoring in a timely fashion to at least make an attempt at controlling, already out of control industrial standards.

 

If  it is the existing stack emissions from Dragon Cement, or from the proposed crematorium, the residents of Thomaston should be concerned, more at a time when the government is reversing hard won EPA industrial standards. Anyone else feel like a sitting duck?

 

 



Posted by: ANANUR FORMA | Aug 15, 2020 11:10

wonder how the people near by are feeling physically? Hope they're ok.



Posted by: T A Schwab | Aug 15, 2020 11:03

Plus they are pumping more than what’s safe into the air.



Posted by: T A Schwab | Aug 15, 2020 11:00

Wow that’s a lot of chemicals coming out of that plant. Besides all the health concerns, house values will go way down who wants to live close to this poison.  Plus they are pumping more than safe into the air to no. This is NOT good.



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