February 25, 2019
Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety
c/o Legislative Information Office
100 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333
Re: Friends of Casco Bay Testimony in Support of LD 430: An Act To Establish and Promote a System of Safe Disposal of Expired Marine Flares
Dear Senator Deschambault and Representative Warren
Please accept this letter as the testimony of Friends of Casco Bay in support of LD 430: An Act To Establish and Promote a System of Safe Disposal of Expired Marine Flares. Friends of Casco Bay supports the legislation because, in addition to enhancing public safety, this solves an environmental problem that protects the health of our marine waters.
Friends of Casco Bay is a marine stewardship organization founded in 1989 to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. Our work includes science, advocacy, and community outreach. One issue that we, our members, and other commercial and recreational users of the Bay face is how to safely and properly dispose of expired marine flares.
Expired flares cannot be thrown out. They are a hazard class 1.4 explosive. They also contain toxic chemicals, including potassium perchlorate which can leach into ground water and cause health problems, especially to citizens with thyroid conditions. The only way to neutralize the perchlorate is to incinerate it at high temperatures. When subjected to high levels of heat, the potassium and chlorine in the perchlorate – KClO2 – remain bonded to become potassium chloride, an essentially harmless compound. The O2 separates from the potassium and chlorine and is released into the air as oxygen
Maine has no protocol for the disposal of expired flares. Some Mainers store boxes of expired flares in their garages and barns because they know they cannot discharge them or throw them out. Others, contrary to law, light them off over the ocean or throw them in the garbage where they create an explosive fire hazard.
LD 430 presents a common sense solution to these problems. It sets up targeted weeks for collection of expired marine flares and a safe system for collection with key collection points. It establishes education and messaging to inform the public of the need to properly dispose of flares and how to do so. We strongly believe that this common sense solution will solve an environmental problem in a costeffective and efficient manner.
In 2017, we supported LD 252, An Act To Improve Safety in the Disposal of Expired Marine Flares. The legislature passed the bill, but the Governor vetoed it. Since then, the State Fire Marshal has voluntarily directed his staff to collect, transport, and incinerate expired marine flares in its EPA-approved mobile incinerator. Under this system, each individual calls the Fire Marshal’s Office and that office dispatches trained staff to pick up the flares. While we remain deeply appreciative of these efforts, our volunteers have reported that this is not working well. The system appears to be overwhelmed by both the number of requests and the number of flares. LD 430 will address part of this problem by setting up targeted times and locations for collection.
The remainder of the problem requires additional resources – a second incinerator. We have been told that the Fire Marshal has a backlog of flares and would like another incinerator to keep up with demand. We support any fiscal note associated with this bill that will finance that purchase in whole or in part. Maine has 3,478 miles of coastline, and over 5,000 miles of coast if all of the island coastlines are included. Having two mobile incinerators to cover 5000 miles of coast is not excessive. This will allow the Fire Marshal to protect public safety as well as the health of our marine waters for years to come.
We urge you to vote that LD 430 ought to pass. Thank you for considering our testimony.
Friends of Casco Bay
CC: Cynthia Fortier, Clerk
To see this testimony as a PDF, click here.