PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Rep. Ben Chipman, D-Portland, has called on the Maine Department of Transportation to cancel a contract due to soil samples containing high levels of lead paint dust that he claims the contractor failed to contain.
Chipman held a press conference Tuesday morning, claiming that Southern Road & Bridge — the company stripping and repainting a number of bridges along I-295 as part of a DOT contract — did not fully contain lead paint dust during the project.
DOT awarded the Florida-based company the $1.9 million contract in December 2015.
Chipman said his colleague, Troy Jackson collected soil samples in the areas near the bridges at Deering Avenue and Preble Street. They sent those samples to Absolute Resources, a Portsmouth, N.H., company, which showed high levels of lead in the samples.
The Deering Avenue bridge runs in between Deering Oaks Park, the Portland High School athletic field and track and near King Middle School. The I-295 bridge over Preble Street is adjacent to the Back Cove running trail.
DOT press secretary Ted Talbot said that DOT asked Southern Road & Bridge to increase the frequency of lead dust cleanup because of the urban setting of the bridges.
Chipman called that unacceptable.
"The other companies that didn't get this job had agreed to do that work for a set price, and so this company shouldn't get additional money to do what the contract requires," Rep. Chipman said. "It's a friendly gesture on their part, but it's not enough. The contract needs to be terminated."
Talbot issued this statement:
"MaineDOT has decades of experience of supporting our transportation infrastructure. This bridge painting project is just one example of hundreds of projects that are performed either directly by the Department or contractors with our oversight.
"Because of our high standards for safety and for the environment, we know there is no risk to the public as a result of our work. The highly certified company performing the bridge painting is taking every step to contain any toxic materials. A visual inspection of the ground within the project area is performed, followed by soil samples taken to ensure no hazardous materials are left behind as a result of our work.
"Representative Chipman has so far chosen not to share the results of his soil testing with MaineDOT, but instead chose a press conference. We would welcome a dialogue.
(*NOTE: Talbot said DOT received Chipman's results around 3:15 p.m.*)
"We have every confidence in the process currently underway. MaineDOT will never leave an area that has proven to be contaminated in any way as a result of our project. We take great pride in our work and that of our contractors."
Rep. Chipman claimed that the contractor was fined in the past for similar offenses involving containment of lead dust, referencing a site in Massachusetts. He said the attorney general and OSHA were investigating.
NEWS CENTER contacted the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's Public Information Manager Ed Coletta. He said the company may be under investigation by OSHA, but said that the DEP had taken no action against the company.