September 23, 2019

Maine Yankee waste fuels concern

BRUNSWICK – A railroad car filled with waste from the defunct Maine Yankee plant in Wiscasset may not pose a health hazard, but nonetheless is worrying some people.

The flatbed car with warning labels has been sitting off Pleasant Street for the past week, and was scheduled to leave for Utah on Wednesday. It is carrying six steel shipping containers filled with slightly radiologically contaminated concrete from the foundation of a water storage tank.

Maine Yankee spokesman Eric Howes said the radiation almost is too low to be detectable.

“It’s run-of-the-mill concrete that has some low-level radiation in it,” Howes said. “It is of no consequence to public health and safety.”

But some people living and working nearby are uncomfortable about the waste.

“Tell them to get it out of there,” said Wayne Caron, a mechanic at Randall’s Auto Body Shop, which is next to the railroad line. “We don’t want it in our backyard.”

Dick Doyle, who lives nearby and handles hazardous materials at Bath Iron Works, also was concerned.

“People should be made aware of this,” he said. “That stuff should be going out of state.”

It was unclear Wednesday why the railroad car was kept on the tracks so long. The containers were moved to Brunswick by Safe Handling Inc., of Auburn, which manages the rail line between Rockland and Brunswick. Guilford Transportation is scheduled to carry the waste from Brunswick to Mechanicsville, N.Y. From there it will be shipped to a radioactive-waste facility in Clive, Utah.

Officials for the railroad companies could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

While federal regulations allow highly radioactive material to stay on a railroad siding for up to 48 hours, there is no restriction for this type of low-level waste, Howes said.

It is common for shipments of low-level waste to remain on the tracks until the carrier can pick it up, according to Paula Craighead, the state’s nuclear safety adviser.

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