A federal judge has refused to block Maine environmental regulators from enforcing a mercury cleanup order at a former chemical plant’s Orrington landfills.
Mallinckrodt LLC of St. Louis, a subsidiary of U.S. Surgical, sued in federal court to prevent the Maine Department of Environmental Protection from enforcing the cleanup, which could cost more than $100 million. The order calls for removal of 370,000 tons of mercury-laced soil.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge John Woodcock denied Mallinckrodt’s request for a temporary restraining order that would have blocked the DEP order.
That will likely force the company to appeal to the state Board of Environmental Protection while a larger complaint against the DEP is pending with the court, the Bangor Daily News reported Tuesday.
Mallinckrodt said it has undertaken more than $35 million in stabilization and remediation measures at the former HoltraChem facility in Orrington. The company says the DEP-ordered excavation would expose the public to mercury that’s already secured.
“We respectfully disagree with the state’s decision to pursue a course of action that risks mercury exposure to the public by excavating materials that are already encapsulated in landfills,” Kathryn Zeigler, director of environmental remediation for Mallinckrodt, said in a statement.
DEP Commissioner David Littell said the state anticipated “a long battle, with many side battles and legal skirmishes, to get Mallinckrodt and U.S. Surgical to clean up the site.”
HoltraChem supplied chlorine and other chemicals for the paper industry and was New England’s largest producer of toxic mercury at the time it closed in 2000. Mallinckrodt owned the plant from 1967 to 1982 and is the only former owner still in business.
The DEP contends the soil removal is needed to protect the public health of area residents and the long-term ecological health of the Penobscot River.
A Nov. 24 order from the DEP requires Mallinckrodt to begin removing landfill soils by May. Soils toxic enough to be considered hazardous waste would be disposed of at a special facility in Canada.
Information from: Bangor Daily News
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