Warren clean-up: If not now, when?

Jan 03, 2013
Source: File Photo MIDDAY BUS TO BOSTON — In this old photo from our files, people are pictured getting on a bus near the old train station on Pleasant Street in Rockland.

More than a decade seems like more than enough time for Warren and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to deal with the problem of tons of polyester fiber waste stored at the R.D. Outfitters rifle range off Route 90.

This has been going on since 1998 or 1999. Originally, Randall and Kathleen Dunican purchased the 70-acre property through their Steamship Navigation Company, planning an outfitter store and rifle range.

Steamship accepted about 175,000 cubic yards of polyester fiber scraps from Gates Formed-Fibre Products, Inc., for an estimated $1 million. The idea was to take the waste scraps and use them to create hills on the property that would both stop the bullets and lessen the noise to the surrounding community.

Then the project was scrapped, still uncompleted. The state stepped in to do mostly nothing, and lawyers got involved, which tends to make drop the pace of anything to glacial slowness.

As for the town of Warren, it has become a new tradition in the community to go out to a special town meeting once a year and vote not to foreclose on the shooting range despite the lack of payment for property taxes.

Even by the most generous of standards — taking into account the scale of the problem, the slowness of the courts, the involvement of the state — even with all that, this has gone on too long.

We are told now that selectmen feel the same way. For the past few years, the town's leadership has been distracted by the ongoing fight over a proposed methadone clinic. Now, with new selectmen and some new town office staff, it may be more of a priority.

The environmental protection department has been slow to deal with this. We admit to not understanding this agency's priorities. While it will often find time to enforce regulations in one area, massive issues elsewhere are allowed to sit for decades unaddressed, such as the problem in Warren. It sometimes appears that the larger in scale an environmental issue, the more slowly the DEP responds.

Two options are being considered. One is using the material as fuel at Dragon Cement in Thomaston. A larger public discussion should be had about this proposal. What kind of environmental impact would burning this material have? Given the slowdown in construction due to the economy, Dragon may not be ready to move ahead with this plan very quickly.

Another proposal is to fill a landfill with it, and we expect that too may generate some public interest.

We would like to see a greater sense of urgency on this issue. Whatever plan is enacted, the walls of fiber in Warren should not be left to wait for another decade of inaction.

This week in history

Jan. 2, 1980, saw a cooling of relations between the Soviet Union and United States as President Jimmy Carter opposed the recent Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The U.S. would boycott the Summer Olympics that same year in Moscow. The U.S. covertly supported rebel forces fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan.

"This tactic was successful in helping to drive out the Soviets," History.com reports, "but it also gave rise to the oppressive Taliban regime and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist organization."

On Jan. 5, 1933, construction began on the Golden Gate Bridge, History.com also reports.

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