Taming the Dragon

Taming the Dragon
Published: 13 January 2005

Dragon Cement Products, located in Thomaston, New England is an important regional employer. Dragon has recently begun reducing its emissions of waste cement kiln dust (CKD) into the local airshed. However, it still has significant problems with fugitive dust, which blows onto surface water and the houses, gardens and, of particular concern, the residents of the area themselves. In addition to the dust, beneath the kiln is a less visible but equally serious problem. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has identified chromium, sulphates and other pollutants from the operation that are leaching into the groundwater.

A recent state memo warns of "impacts to ground and surface water from the very high pH leachate generated by the stockpiles," and notes the "disposal of CKD generated on the pavement areas of the facility via blending with storm water and discharging to Quarry 5 and ultimately to a tributary of the St. George River." Fed by continuing contaminated runoff draining from Dragon’s still-uncapped-after-all-these-years 800,000- ton, 15-acre mountain of cement kiln dust, we fear that the water pollution plume will only continue to expand.

If efforts by citizens’ group Neighbors for a Safe Dragon bear fruit, however, Maine DEP will act on Dragon’s 1992 permit application, and end a dozen years of indecisiveness (the agency has toyed with redefining Dragon’s 800,000-ton cement kiln dust waste pile as a "stockpile," hence not subject to waste remediation rules) and order the company to cap its waste pile as required by environmental regulations. When this inexplicably long-delayed step is taken, the healing of the land, streams, air and aquifers in Thomaston and neighboring towns injured by Dragon will really begin.