Town officials over the line in defending Dragon

By The Courier-Gazette Editorial Board | Sep 17, 2020

“Nothing to see here,” was the message as Thomaston Planning Board Chair Joanne Richards and Select Board Chair Peter Lammert held a cheerleading session for Dragon Cement last week.

They were prompted to spout their support of the large taxpayer after our article exposed the fact that the plant has been fined $66,937 for environmental violations.

In response to the article and valid concerns from members of the public, an “informational” meeting was hastily thrown together that was nothing more than a chance for town leaders and Dragon employees to downplay the seriousness of the environmental problems caused by the plant.

Dragon Vice President of Environmental Health and Safety Steve Holt compared the fine to receiving a speeding ticket. That does not even pass the straight face test.

Government agencies do not fine companies nearly $67,000 for no reason.

Richards said she grew up near the Dragon plant, and deliberately chose to purchase a house near the plant as an adult. This show of bias in the face of clear evidence is inappropriate from the planning board chair.

However, this is not new.

We have reported on various environmental problems involving Dragon for decades. Years ago, cement dust was stored in massive piles that was allowed to blow around in the wind. Even then, when the problems were worse, we received this exact same reaction.

The theme you will see recurring in Thomaston is that Dragon pays a lot of taxes and employs many local people. They draw a lot of water, as the saying goes. So, support for them is to be unquestioned.

We, like everyone else, appreciate job creators and big taxpayers in our community, but some operations, especially major industrial mining and manufacturing processes, also bring environmental consequences. It is our job, as your local newspaper, to keep everyone informed of environmental issues in your backyard, and we plan to continue doing just that.

Here are the facts: The DEP told us the violations were discovered following an investigation that began in 2016 when the plant failed an ammonia emission stack test.

The state reviewed tests going back to 2013, and it began negotiating the consent agreement in December 2019.

The DEP determined Dragon Products exceeded its ammonia limits in its emissions from the manufacturing kiln on multiple occasions during 2016, exceeded its carbon monoxide emissions on multiple occasions in 2015 and 2016, and exceeded its particulate release in 2015.

The environmental agency also listed other violations from 2013 through 2018, including failing to record accurate and reliable data for nearly all of the fourth quarter of 2015.

In 2015, 2016 and 2017, Dragon exceeded its opacity standards. Opacity is a measure of visible emissions coming from a stack, essentially the particles that make up the smoke.

You can ignore these facts if you want, but consider what voice you decide to trust, and what the motives may be behind it.

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Comments (5)
Posted by: Connie Putnam | Sep 22, 2020 10:26

The previous comment does not reflect the sentiment or opinion of Connie Putnam or her affiliations. It was posted under her account by N Wood.



Posted by: Connie Putnam | Sep 22, 2020 08:17

This exact theme of disregarding the residents of their town and looking greedily at the $$$ is the point the townspeople have tried to make regarding the crematorium. The town officials have been reassured by the business that stands to profit immensely from the crematorium and would not even give consideration to the concerns of the neighbors in the area. Seriously, they said we were "overreacting". These are the very same people that dismissed Dragon's violations as any concern.



Posted by: Lucinda Lang | Sep 20, 2020 08:43

"The theme you will see recurring in Thomaston is that Dragon pays a lot of taxes and employs many local people. They draw a lot of water, as the saying goes. So, support for them is to be unquestioned. "                  And it may not only be Dragon......



Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Sep 17, 2020 19:52

Isn't that the way of the world today. As a country we have reduced ourselves to believing liars because it benefits our wallets. Who are we supposed to believe?



Posted by: Patricia Hubbard | Sep 17, 2020 17:46

Richards said she grew up near the Dragon plant, and deliberately chose to purchase a house near the plant as an adult. This show of bias in the face of clear evidence is inappropriate from the planning board chair.

Yes, I was very interested in this comment from our very own Chair of the Planning Board. Really?!



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