Sprague Operating Resources LLC is paying $17,800 in fines for waste plastic spillage in waters off Searsport, Maine, last year.
The firm was offloading bales of plastic to be used as fuel at the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. waste-to-energy plant when two bales containing approximately 80 percent plastic were dropped Dec. 2, 2020, according to an administrative consent agreement reached with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
"One bail broke open after hitting the pier infrastructure, fell into the water, and sank immediately," the agreement states. "The other bale fell directly into the water between the pier and the ship, remained intact, and slowly sank over the period of 5-10 minutes."
Lifting straps on both bales, wrapped in plastic film, slipped to cause the mishaps.
Sprague later told authorities that concerns about weather and safety delayed any attempts to recover the dropped material, the agreement states.
Sprague, while monitoring for debris, initially did not report the mishap to the state, which received a complaint of "garbage/plastic" in the water on Dec. 8. Sprague then reported the lost bales Dec. 9 after state staff visited the site. The company told the state it had begun inspecting beaches and shoreline and was collecting plastic waste, the agreement states.
The company hired a diver Dec. 10 in an unsuccessful attempt to locate the bale that sank. Later use of a vessel with sonar located the bale, which was recovered intact by divers on Dec. 23. The company has made corrective actions to its operations manual and conducted training with local employees in July, the agreement states.
The bales each weighed about 2,500 pounds and included shredded plastic along with approximately 11 percent paper, 8 percent fabric and 1 percent other materials, the agreement states.
Sprague Operating Resources is part of publicly traded Sprague Resources LP, a Portsmouth, N.H., an energy and material handling company that posted sales of $2.3 billion in 2020.