Black smoke caused by a malfunctioning oil boiler billows out over Rockland Harbor from the FMC Corporation on Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by C. Parrish)
Black smoke caused by a malfunctioning oil boiler billows out over Rockland Harbor from the FMC Corporation on Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by C. Parrish)
Black smoke billowing out of the smoke stack at FMC Corporation in downtown Rockland just after 5 p.m., Tuesday, July 22, was caused by the malfunction of an oil-fired boiler at the seaweed processing facility, according to plant manager Joseph Hamlin.

Hamlin, who sent an official response to Rockland city leaders Wednesday, said a "boiler failure" caused unburned fuel oil to turn to soot and be emitted into the air.

Barbara Del Duke, a spokesperson for the company, said the cause was similar to what occurs in a home furnace malfunction.

The three boilers at the Rockland plant, whose emissions are individually regulated by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), are used to create steam used in the production process that turns seaweed into a food-grade product. One of the three boilers failed, but was back in operation Wednesday afternoon, according to Del Duke.

FMC contacted the fire department as a precaution. Hamlin said there was no fire at the Tillson Avenue plant, nor was air quality "deemed unsafe at any time."

According to FMC's current Bureau of Air Quality license, the company must report the malfunction to the DEP within two days if there is any indication of an air emissions violation.

"The smoke was non-hazardous and disbursed as a result of the breeze," Hamlin said, in his statement.

Del Duke said the company notified the Maine DEP and is working with the agency.

The incident is also under investigation by the company. Del Duke said the company will assist with the clean-up of any boats that were affected by the blow out, which swept over the moorings at the north end of the harbor. Boat owners should contact the Rockland FMC facility at 207-594-3200 with details, said Del Duke.