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Release Date: 08/27/1999
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman , EPA Community Affairs Office 617.918.1064 Dwayne Gardner, DEP Office of Communications, 860.424.4100

BOSTON--The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finished cleanup today of fire debris from properties in the town of Sprague, Conn. EPA worked closely with the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and state and local health officials to clean the debris containing asbestos that resulted from the August 11 fire at Baltic Mills.

A 60-person clean-up crew removed about 125 cubic yards of debris, which fell the night of the fire as far as fives miles away to the northwest. EPA and DEP clean-up efforts initially focused on neighborhoods with the heaviest concentrations of fire debris, with particular attention paid to schools, homes, and a nearby campground. EPA allocated $500,000 to cover the costs of the heaviest cleanup work.

"From the start, town officials, state agencies, and EPA came together and worked quickly to protect neighborhoods surrounding the mill building," said EPA New England administrator John P. DeVillars. "As a result of these efforts, the Sprague community rest easier as the school year approaches."

"We're grateful to the EPA for their quick response and assistance with the Baltic Mills cleanup," said Arthur J. Rocque, Jr., Commissioner of the DEP. "The cooperative effort of the EPA, town officials, and the DEP served the people of Sprague well."

The roof of the Baltic Mills building, which contained asbestos, collapsed during the fire, releasing a plume of debris and burning embers into the air. Shortly after the fire, DEP requested EPA assistance in removing the debris containing asbestos that had been found on the ground in several neighborhoods.

Workers hand-picked fire debris from properties and placed it into sealed plastic bags. In addition, EPA used specially equipped vacuum trucks to remove heavier volumes of debris from town streets and properties. The debris was stored on the Baltic Mills property in five covered disposal bins, and transported this week to a licensed disposal facility in New Hampshire.

EPA laboratory analyses of air samples indicated that no unsafe levels of airborne asbestos particles were present in neighborhoods affected by fire fallout. Personal air sampling monitors worn by clean-up workers also indicated no unsafe levels of airborne asbestos fibres during the cleanup.

As a precaution, state and local health officials distributed a fact sheet to residents the day after the fire that described health hazards related to asbestos and advised residents not to remove or touch any debris that appeared to have come from the fire. Residents were also asked to report debris found in surrounding neighborhoods to an EPA hotline number.

The former Baltic Mills facility is located at the intersection of routes 138 and 97.