NORWAY – The fire that destroyed The Norway Color Center on Main Street left an environmental mess in its wake.

Thousands of gallons of water were poured onto and into the building that held more than a quarter million dollars of inventory including paints, lacquers, paint thinners and other chemicals.

Water flooded the basement and once it reached its capacity, a milky colored water formed by the chemicals, which had not burned, was pushed out.

The rivulet of chemicals wended its way toward Pennesseewassee Stream.

Norway Fire Chief Mike Mann ordered absorbant boom pads to be positioned to collect oil and other hazardous materials.

When Maine Department of Environmental Protection oil and hazardous material specialist Stephen L. Flannery arrived about 9:30 a.m. there was not much he could do. The water was in the stream already.

“I have no idea how much” of the chemicals escaped, he said. “There was just a white plume going in. The damage is done. It’s one of those tough ones.

“The major concern was the fire since it was right downtown,” he said. “We do what we can afterward.”

He said the water seemed to be contaminated with a latex, rather than oil paint because there was no sheen left and the oil would coagulate with the water.

Flannery said in the long term the latex could present a problem because it dissolves in water.

He did say the tainted water was diverted through a field before reaching the stream, giving whatever substance that was in it a chance to evaporate.

Another problem was created at the site when excavation work punctured two oil tanks in the basement of The Norway Color Center building, releasing the fluid into the flooded basement.

Flannery said the pumping was halted once the oil was discovered and CleanHarbors Environmental Services Inc. of Portland was called in to suck the oil-tainted water out into a truck.

CleanHarbors driver Mike McKay said he was in Oxford just about to start a job when he was called to Norway.

He started pumping about 3 p.m. and estimated he had taken up about 900 gallons of the roughly 3,500 that needed to be removed.

McKay said his truck was full and another truck was en route.

Flannery said a DEP representative would also be on site Friday to do a further inspection.


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