In general, “A Superfund site is an uncontrolled or abandoned place where hazardous waste is located, possibly affecting local ecosystems or people.”1
A federal Superfund site is
any land in the United States that has been contaminated by hazardous waste and identified by EPA as a candidate for cleanup under the federal Superfund program because it poses a risk to human health and/or the environment.
A federal Superfund site is defined by the arial extent of contamination and is not delineated by property boundaries. A Superfund site may exist within a single property’s boundaries or it may encompass many properties. Nearly all impacted properties will have associated health, safety, and legal issues.2
One-hundred twenty-four waste sites have been identified in Maine. Ten highly polluted sites remain on,the National Priority List for cleanup. Some have been substantially cleaned, but remain under monitoring by the EPA. Here is a summary.
Brunswick Naval Air Station
The now closed Naval Air Station was located south of the Androscoggin River, between Brunswick and Bath, south of Route 1, and between Routes 24 and 123. Among the site areas, three were used from 1945 to 1979 primarily for landfilling the station’s household, office, and other wastes. Other areas were reported to have releases occur or have been used for disposal of various acids, caustics, solvents and building materials including asbestos, and used for fire training purposes. Contaminated groundwater known as the Eastern Plume remains on the site.
Direct contact threats on the base have been eliminated through cleanup actions completed by 1995. The base’s old underground storage tanks have been removed and replaced. The Navy is cleaning up contamination resulting from the former fuel tank farm and has taken steps to improve the quality of stormwater discharges on the base. Operation of the groundwater pump and treatment system for the Eastern Plume continues and long-term monitoring is in progress and data evaluated yearly.
Callahan Mining Corporation
The Callahan Mine site is located approximately 1,000 feet east-southeast of Harborside Village in the Town of Brooksville. The site is the former location of a zinc/copper open-pit mine. The mining operations were conducted adjacent to and beneath Goose Pond, a tidal estuary. The Callahan Mine was reputedly the only intertidal heavy metal mine in the world at the time of its operation. Facility features include large waste piles (waste rock piles), a tailings pond, and mine operations buildings and structures. The open pit mine ceased operations in 1972 and was flooded by opening a dam at Goose Falls. The zinc/copper sulfide deposit was discovered in 1880 at low tide by a clam digger. The first mine operated until 1887.
Cleanup operations have been underway and are expected to be completed in 2012.
Eastern Surplus Company
The Eastern Surplus Company occupies approximately 5 acres of land along Meddybemps Lake and the Dennys River in Meddybemps. Eastern Surplus operated as an army surplus and salvage retailer from 1946 until the early 1980s. A site inspection in 1984 noted chemical odors, leaking electrical transformers, compressed gas cylinders, hundreds of deteriorating drums and containers, 16,000 pounds of calcium carbide, and numerous areas of stained soil. Site contamination threatened local active fisheries and spawning areas.
Native American artifacts dating back approximately 9,000 years were found during remediation. The N’tolonapemk Village is now a major archaeological research site for the history of the Passamaquoddy people.
Eastland Woolen Mills
The 22-acre Eastland Woolen Mill Superfund site, located on Main Street in the heart of Corinna, is a former textile mill that operated from 1909 until 1996. Process wastes containing contaminants such as chlorobenzenes were discharged to the East Branch of the Sebasticook River, which flowed underneath one of the mill buildings. Due to storage and disposal practices at the site, river sediments, soil and ground water, including several drinking water supply wells, became contaminated.
A 20-unit senior housing facility is now located on a portion of the site. The historic Odd Fellows Building was relocated, and it is now a country store and restaurant.
Located in the town of Leeds, the site of is a former scrap metal recovery facility which operated between 1969 and 1984. Operations at the Leeds Metal site date back to the mid-to late 1800s, however little is known about specific site activities prior to 1969, when the property was leased to National Metal Converters, Inc. for use as a scrap metal recovery facility. Junk automobiles were brought to the site to be shredded on site in a hammer mill via an electromagnetic crane and then pulverized into fist-sized pieces. The recovered ferrous metals were shipped off-site for recycling via rail cars. Gasoline and other fluids from junk cars were dumped directly onto the ground, and at one point as many as 100 drums were staged along the tree line in the southern part of the site.
Hazardous substances associated with the site source areas include PCBs, VOCs (PCE, and TCE) and metals (arsenic, cadmium, chromium and lead). In addition, a groundwater plume of VOCs is documented onsite and extending southward, impacting drinking water supply wells along Route 106 as far as 0.36 miles from the site. Seven drinking water supply wells near the site are contaminated with VOCs at concentrations exceeding health-based benchmarks.
Cleanup had not started as of November, 2011.
Loring Air Force Base
The Loring Development Authority worked with the U.S. Air Force and EPA to establish 16 new businesses and several public sector employers at the Loring Air Force Base Superfund site in Limestone. From 1952 until 1994, operations at the Loring Air Force Base generated waste oils, aviation fuels, spent solvents, polychlorinated biphenyls, and pesticides. Fifty-three areas of environmental concern were identified.
Over 30 of those areas have been cleaned up. The Loring Development Authority reported that more than 850 new public and private jobs have been created at the former base, and a new Federal Jobs Corps center on the site supports an additional 300 people.
The 7-acre McKin Company sand and gravel pit site is located in a rural residential area about 1 mile east of the center of the Town of Gray. The facility opened in 1965 for storage and disposal of liquid wastes and expanded in 1972 to accommodate waste generated when a Norwegian tanker ran aground on a ledge in Hussey Sound, spilling 100,000 gallons of industrial fuel. Between 1965 and 1978, the plant handled and disposed of a mixture of solvents, oils, and other chemicals. Approximately 100,000 to 200,000 gallons of waste are thought to have been processed annually. Wastes also may have been disposed of by spreading them over the ground surface. As early as 1973, residents of East Gray reported odors in well water and discoloration of laundry.
Much of the site has been cleaned, but is still under EPA review.
In the 1950s, the Augusta company began operating a salvage and electrical transformer recycling business at the site. Operations included stripping and recycling transformers containing polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-laden oil. In 1972, an oil spill at the site was found to have migrated towards Riggs Brook. Various remediation efforts were undertaken after 1972.
In September 2002 EPA approved a technical impracticability waiver for a limited portion of the site. The ongoing groundwater monitoring indicates that the groundwater beneath the rest of the site is either below or just above federal and state drinking water standards. It is anticipated that the groundwater for the rest of the site will consistently meet these standards within the next ten years.
Saco Municipal Landfill
The site covers approximately 90 acres and has been owned and operated by the City of Saco since 1960. The site comprises a closed and capped municipal dump that was used for open burning of household and industrial waste; an inactive industrial dump that accepted bulk and demolition debris; a relatively small area in which wastes such as tires, leather, and rubber scraps from local industries were dumped; and recently closed landfill that accepted household waste and tannery sludge. Chemicals and wastes from this site contaminated the soil and ground water.
EPA, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and the City of Saco cleaned up the site, and it is now available for reuse. The city plans to develop a community recreation area for hiking, biking, ice skating, and soccer. Future plans also include developing wetlands on a portion of the site.
Union Chemical Company
The 12-acre Union Chemical Company, Inc. site in South Hope began operations in 1967 as a formulator of paint and coating strippers. In 1969, the company expanded its operations and began handling and recovering petrochemical-based solvents. The State closed the waste treatment operations in 1984, at which time approximately 2,000 drums and 30 liquid storage tanks containing hazardous waste were stored on the site. The on-site soil and groundwater contamination resulted from improper handling and operating practices such as leaking stored drums, spills, use of a septic tank and a leachfield for disposal of process wastewater, and could also be attributed to past disposal methods. There are approximately 200 people living within a 1/2-mile radius of the site. These residents depend on groundwater for domestic use. Grassy Pond is less than 1 mile east of the site and is an alternate drinking water source serving approximately 22,800 people in the Towns of Camden, Rockport, Rockland, and Thomaston.
On-site groundwater and soils are contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including xylenes, trichloroethylene, tetrachlorethylene, and 1,1-dichlorethene. Off-site surface water contamination may have occurred through discharges of contaminated process wastewater into the adjacent Quiggle Brook and through natural discharge of contaminated groundwater into the brook. People who come into direct contact with or accidentally ingest contaminated groundwater could be at risk.
With the successful cleanup of the on-site soil, the soil is no longer a source of contamination to the groundwater. Contamination levels in the groundwater have been decreased significantly since the Remedial Investigation through implementation of pump-and-treat technology and several innovative technologies but are still above drinking water standards. (Updated June 6, 2011)
1 “Superfund Sites Where You Live.” http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/index.htm (accessed December 9, 2011)
2“Basic Information.” http://epa.gov/R5Super/redevelop/info/index.htm#SuperfundSite_Defintion (accessed December 9, 2011)
“Waste Site Cleanup & Reuse in New England.” Environmental Protection Agency. http://www.epa.gov/region1/superfund/(accessed December 9, 2011) Click on “ME.”