AUGUSTA – Cleanup operations will begin next week at the abandoned American Tissue mill complex, which contains large numbers of chemical-filled containers.
The Environmental Protection Agency said the complex, located along the Kennebec River in the capital city, was operated by several companies before American Tissue took over ownership in 2000. The company went bankrupt the next year.
The cleanup is expected to cost an estimated $1.4 million, the EPA said. The agency has hired Shaw Environmental of Hopkinton, Mass., for the job.
Numerous tanks located throughout the mill site contain chemicals used in the tissue manufacturing process and for treatment of wastewater used in manufacturing, according to the EPA.
About 100 55-gallon drums are also located throughout the complex, which includes a wastewater treatment plant. The EPA said other small containers, pails and bagged products have been found in various locations inside and outside of the riverside facility.
The primary focus of the cleanup over the next several months will be to remove a large volume of hazardous and flammable material from the shuttered mill.
The EPA noted that lines running from some of the chemical tanks are filled with liquids which are susceptible to freezing when temperatures drop. That could rupture the lines and cause another spill. Last winter, two mill employees kept propane-fuel heaters going in the mill to prevent the chemicals from freezing.
Tom Condon, who compiled a list of environmental hazards for the EPA, said the cleanup process is “time critical.”
Condon said there is a risk of incompatible chemicals mixing together and creating additional hazards.
“The contents of a number of drums and large solvent tanks could potentially flow into the Kennebec River either overland or via sewer drains,” Condon wrote after an assessment of the site a month ago.
The mill has been vandalized and its office burned down since it closed. The city of Augusta is owed more than $450,000 in back taxes for the site.