Union Chemical Co. Inc.

The Union Chemical Company, Inc. site is comprised of 12 acres and located in South Hope, Maine.  The company began operations as a formulator of paint and coating strippers in 1967.  In 1969 this expanded to include the handling and recovery of petrochemical-based solvents.  10 years later, as part of this recovery process, Union Chemical added in a fluidized bed incinerator.  This piece of machinery was used to burn contaminated sludges, still bottoms, and other unspecified hazardous wastes.  Some of the aforementioned wastes were burned using an on-site boiler which provided heat and operating power to the plant.

These actions began to receive negative attention from the state of Maine; and from 1979 till 1984, the plant was cited for violating several operating licenses.  Waste treatment operations were closed by the state in 1984.  Upon closing approximately 2,000 drums and 30 liquid storage tanks, all holding hazardous wastes, were stored at the site.  Leaking stored drums, the use of a septic tank and a leachfield for processed wastewater, and spills are the improper handling and operating practices that resulted in on-site soil and groundwater contamination. Within a half-mile radius from the site reside approximately 200 people, all of which depend on the groundwater for domestic uses.

A subsequent remedial investigation determined that the buildings and other plant facilities contained heavy metals, dioxins, and asbestos.  On-site groundwater and soils were contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which include: tetrachlorethylene, trichchlorethylene, xylenes, and 1, 1-dichlorethene. These pollutants were such that the Environmental Protection Agency warned that those people who came into direct contact with, or were to accidently ingest the contaminated groundwater, could be at risk.  This was especially pertinent due to discharges of contaminated process wastewater into the Quiggle brook, which is adjacent to the property. Both immediate and long-term remedial actions were necessary at the Union Chemical site.  Such actions included demolition and removal of the buildings and structures on site, clean up of on-site soils, evaluation of off-site soils, and restoration of groundwater beneath the site.  Contaminate levels in the groundwater remain above drinking water standards.

This site and its surrounding areas have been impacted by the dumping of hazardous substances from the plant. In addition to the listed ecological ramifications, human health concerns are also likely. These practices, conjoined with the EPA’s findings of asbestos, and the age of the plant are reason for this concern. Asbestos is a leading cause of asbestosis and certain cancers, specifically, mesothelioma.  Unfortunately, mesothelioma has a long latency period. This means that former chemical plant employees with prolonged exposure to asbestos might only be exhibiting the first symptoms of mesothelioma today.