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State environmental response to formaldehyde leak at Florence plastics firm

State environmental response to formaldehyde leak at Florence plastics firm

Published at 9:21.11 PM on 3/31/2022

Modified: 3/31/2022, 9:20:17 PM

NORTHAMPTON State environmental regulators are investigating a 100 gallons spillage of formaldehyde on the grounds of the BIQEM plastics company in Florence.

The MassDEP stated in a statement that the spillage occurred on Tuesday, at 9 a.m.

Formaldehyde is a chemical compound that has a variety industrial and other uses. It is both toxic, and it can be flammable.

MassDEP emergency response staff responded and confirmed that up to 100 gallons (in a frozen condition) were in the containment area. The company hired a cleanup contractor to clean up the area and a licensed site professional to do the cleanup.

According to MassDEP, the spillage was caused by an overfilling of the storage tank during Monday’s delivery.

Marvin Cable lives in Willow Street, just behind the facility. He claimed that no one had notified the nearby residents about the spillage. He noticed the spillage while driving to work and reported it to the city, state, and federal authorities.

Cable said that it hadn’t rained in a few days and that there was a huge puddle in the lot just outside the tank. I was shocked to see all the white powder around, as if it had come from a spill kit.

Cable sent an email blast his neighbors, who he described as being outraged by this and other environmental incidents at the plant.

Cable said that people are knocking on my front door, and they’re coming over after he emailed his neighbors. I have received at least a dozen phone calls. The residents have been complaining for a long time.

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Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra stated Thursday that the city is working hard for this company to comply with local laws.

Our goal is complete compliance. Sciarra stated that the city is grateful for the information provided by neighbors about BI-QEM. To ensure the company’s safety, our own inspection apparatus is closely involved with the MassDEP (and the Environmental Protection Agency).

The EPA issued an administrative compliance notice to BI-QEM on March 8 under the Clean Air Act. Federal and state regulators toured Florence one month before and found, among others, leaking formaldehyde pipelines, excessive amounts of potentially combustible dirt, electrical hazards, and a lack of overflow control on a large formaldehyde storage tank. According to the ECHO website which tracks enforcement and compliance history,

The EPA order directs the company’s development and implementation of a work plan to address violations in risk management planning found at the facility. To address hazards at the site, EPA has worked closely with OSHA, MA DEP and the local fire department.

BI-QEMs Florence branch referred a request of comment to a company address. The company did no comment by Thursday’s deadline. The EPA representatives did not respond to questions regarding Monday’s spillage.

Brian Steele can be reached at

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