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Progress & News

Plant Area Remediation Continues in 2019

The fifth year of environmental remediation work at the former HoltraChem Site will involve work in the last remaining area of the cleanup effort. Throughout, remediation has moved forward on schedule with extensive sampling and testing prior to development of the design plans essentially providing a map of the soils needing to be removed. Subsequent excavation of soils confirmed these pre-design results and design plans and close coordination with the Maine DEP on reviews of technical submittals has also been a critical aspect of keeping the process moving on schedule.    

The remediation of the former HoltraChem plant site is focused on the 60 acres of the 235-acre site where the manufacturing operations occurred during the 33 years the plant was in operation. The plant produced chlorine and other chemicals for the pulp and paper industry in Maine until the plant was closed in 2000. Mallinckrodt US LLC as the successor to one of the former owners has sole responsibility for remediating and restoring the site.

Mallinckrodt began the process of dismantling and demolishing buildings and infrastructure at the site in 2003 under oversight of the Maine DEP. Mallinckrodt also commissioned the design and construction of a new groundwater treatment plant (GWTP) which began operation in 2012. The additional capacity designed into the new GWTP ensures that it will be capable of treating all ground and surface waters pumped into it from the Site.

Agreement with the Maine DEP on the scope and sequencing of the remediation was finally resolved in April 2014. One of the first tasks of the site-wide remediation was rehabilitating a railroad spur that had fallen into disrepair from its days as the major source of transport of materials to and from the plant. That rail line has been at the heart of the soil excavation and removal operation at the Site with most of the materials being transported offsite by rail, keeping trucks off local roads.

Site excavation work began in earnest in 2015 with the removal of soil from the Landfill Ridge Area in the northern tip of the former manufacturing area, all of which was shipped by rail to appropriate licensed landfills. That work site was then graded to reflect the natural topography plus improvements to make the entire area more stable, and then restored with new vegetation.

In 2016, new protective caps were installed on Landfills 3, 4 and 5, excavation of the Scrap Metal Yard and Northern Ditch areas was substantially completed and the areas were stabilized over the winter season.

2017 lived up to its promise as another busy and significant year of progress. Remediation of the Southerly Stream and removal of Landfill 2 was completed that year, while final seeding, planting and restoration work for Landfills 3, 4 and 5 and the Scrap Metal Yard was also completed. Additionally, initial restoration of the Southern Cove, Southerly Stream, Northern Ditch, and Landfill 2 areas began.

And during the following year, 2018, excavation and initial restoration of Landfill 1 was completed and Phase 1 excavations in the Plant Area took place, while final restoration of the Southerly Stream, Northern Ditch, Landfill 2 and the Southern Cove area was completed.

PROGRESS REPORT (Updated October 2019)

Remediation of Final Landfill Completed in 2018:

Remediation work at the last of five landfills on the Site, Landfill 1,was completed in 2018 marking a significant milestone in the site restoration project. Located west of the manufacturing area, Landfill 1 included two discrete disposal areas and a former surface impoundment for wastewater. This area was closed and capped with plastic (Hypalon) material in approximately 1980. Working with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Corrective Measures Implementation (CMI) Plan (design) was approved. Remediation primarily consisted of excavating certain soils with mercury concentrations above the Media Protection Standards. Soil samples were collected during the remediation process to confirm that the design criteria were met; excavated soils were transported off site for disposal in secure landfills. After completion of the excavation of soils, the area was backfilled, graded and initially restored for winter. Final restoration was completed in July 2019. 

Work Continues in the Plant Area:

The Plant Area at the Site is approximately 12 acres on which the former manufacturing processes took place. The original Corrective Measures Implementation Plan (CMIP) for the Plant Area was submitted in early 2017. Based on subsequent discussions between the Maine DEP and Mallinckrodt, the remediation of the Plant Area has been separated into distinct phases of work. The Phase 1 design was submitted to DEP in December 2017 and approved in January 2018. The Phase 1 Plant Area removal of impacted soils was completed in early 2019, final backfill was completed in early summer 2019 and final restoration will be completed in 2019. Technical discussions were held with DEP in December 2018 and design plans for the Phase 2 approach were approved by Maine DEP in September 2019. Phase 2 work will continue into 2020.

Final Restoration of Several Areas Completed in 2018:

Landfill 2 is one of two landfills at the Site – Landfills 1 & 2 – being removed. Landfill 2 was used from 1971 to 1973, covered with soil in 1973 and capped with clay in 1980. For the remediation of Landfill 2, soils with concentrations of Containments of Concern (COCs) exceeding the soil Media Protection Standards (MPS), were disposed of at an approved offsite disposal facility. Initial restoration work was completed in late 2017 before winter and final restoration was completed on 2018. The restoration established final grades to shed storm water and re-vegetated the area to blend with the surrounding areas, including the Southerly Stream, and minimize the potential for future erosion. 

Additionally, the new Northern Drainage Ditch has been re-vegetated with new natural slopes to protect from erosion. A portion of this remediated area was used as a staging area for the Landfill 1 construction. Once this area is no longer needed, final restoration of this remaining Northern Ditch area will be completed. 

Final restoration of the Southerly Stream area and the Southern Cove, an area of the Penobscot River adjacent to the Orrington Site, was also completed last year. 

Site Spotlight: 
Fully Enclosed Rail Cars Serve as Primary Mode of Soil Removal

Fully enclosed rail cars serve as the backbone for the secure contaminated-soil excavation and removal operation at the former HoltraChem site in Orrington.

Mallinckrodt US LLC (Mallinckrodt) is opting to use rail transfer as the primary mode of soil removal because it is more secure and less disruptive than hauling all of the soils by truck, which would have carried the material out along the River Road and added to congestion along the town’s main access road.

Rail is an efficient and environmentally friendly mode of transportation. One freight train can replace hundreds of trucks and reduce traffic and wear and tear on roadways.


According to the Association of American Railroads, US freight railroads moved a ton of freight an average of 479 miles per gallon of fuel in 2014, a mileage rating to be envied by even the most eco-friendly car. Greenhouse gas emissions are also directly in comparison to truck transport related to fuel consumption, so moving materials from the Orrington site by rail is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent.

The spur rail line that runs from the main line into the site has been upgraded to allow for safe transport of the material off the site and onto the main rail line for its final destination.

Although some material will be moved by truck, the majority of the material will be transported over the rail lines to keep the truck traffic to a minimum. Mallinckrodt plans to work with local residents to minimize disruptions and make sure the cars move out as efficiently as possible.

Cars will be stacked behind a locomotive and move an average of 15 cars per week with outgoing rail traffic no more frequently than twice a week. Empty cars will also move inbound in order to replace those cars that are shipped offsite. Operational hours for the outbound and inbound trains will generally occur between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

This page will be periodically updated with progress reports, photos and other news. 

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