Questions over the Dragon

Published 01 October 2004

A US-Maine neighborhood group promises "consistent, persistent" effort to prod cement manufacturer Dragon Products on environmental issues, and it drew some 100 people to its first community meeting. "We don’t want to shut down Dragon," said Greg Marley of Rockland at a public gathering of Neighbors for a Safe Dragon on Tuesday night at Watts Hall. The session linked environmental and health concerns to alleged pollution from Dragon’s Route 1 plant.

 Marley said it will take a "consistent, persistent, dogmatic effort" to ensure Dragon follows state and federal "best practices" standards. Neighbors for a Safe Dragon wants to engage in conversation with the company "so we can ensure we’re healthy," he said.
Concerns about dust, noise, groundwater contamination and damaged building foundations from blasting were mentioned at the meeting. A key issue involves Dragon’s waste piles, which the group says consist of more than 845,000t of cement kiln dust covering 15 acres. Marley said the dust contains toxic chemicals.

Paula Clark, director of solid waste management for Dragon, would not say Wednesday whether dust from the cement kiln pile poses any health risks, saying no toxicological assessments have been done. She said an evaluation of the cement kiln dust components has been done, however. "It’s been found acceptable as an agricultural liming agent," she said.

Lawyers for the Neighbors group claim Dragon is not complying with some state environmental regulations. Peggy McGehee and Hope Jacobsen, attorneys with the Portland law firm Perkins, Thompson, Hinckley & Keddy, offered a list of purported Dragon violations.
The list claimed the company has lacked a solid waste license for the past 12 years for the 15-acre stockpile.

The attorneys also said the cement manufacturer expanded its operations recently without obtaining a state Department of Environmental Protection site permit. "DEP is currently reviewing Dragon’s after-the-fact application to expand its facility," the group handout says. According to Jacobsen, Dragon has not had a DEP permit for the cement kiln dust for 12 years and cannot obtain one because the groundwater is so polluted.

As to allegations that the dust pile is illegal, Dragon’s Clark said DEP has been working with Dragon for considerable time on a schedule of compliance rather than a license. The cement company is conducting trials on reusing cement kiln dust and clinker in its cement-making process, which would reduce the pile, she said.