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Local Auto Repair Shops on the Hook for Decades-old Oil Spill

Written by  Jennifer Osborn Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 9:35 am

ELLSWORTH — Hancock County auto repair shops learned they may be paying a share of $2.5 million or more in remediation costs from a decades-old oil spill that has contaminated groundwater at three sites on Route 1A near Boggy Brook Road.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the Finance Authority of Maine and the Office of the Maine Attorney General held a public hearing at City Hall last week.

The agencies shared information about site remediation and associated costs with auto businesses that had patronized the Portland Bangor Waste Oil Co.’s site in Ellsworth.

The businesses affected would have taken their oil to the company’s site between 1963 and 1980, which is the year the DEP shut down the oil company. Its owner, George West, is deceased.

Wayne Paradis, who is the site project manager in the DEP’s Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management, explained that the process, which he described as a “cost recovery process,” is in the preliminary stages.

Area auto dealers, who are already dealing with a difficult economy, are none too pleased.

“We don’t like it, but there’s no way out of it,” said Clyde Lewis, general manager of Morrison Chevrolet.

Paradis explained that under state law, anyone transporting a hazardous substance or contributing a hazardous substance to a site is considered responsible if the substance isn’t handled correctly.

The aforementioned $2.5 million is an estimate. The final total could be higher.

All five of the company’s sites were contaminated, Paradis said. Besides Ellsworth, there were sites in Wells, Plymouth, Casco and Presque Isle.

As to why businesses are being asked to pay for damage wrought decades ago, Paradis said what was acceptable during the ’60s and ’70s changed and knowledge about the environment became much greater.

The Finance Authority of Maine attended the hearing last week in Ellsworth and has funds to help businesses pay remediation costs, according to Jessica Maurer, a spokesman from the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

If a business opts not to pay its share of the remediation, the state may sue, according to Maurer.

For more information about the Portland Bangor Waste Oil Co. and the affected sites, go to maine.gov/dep/rwm/pbwo.

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