NEWBURYPORT — It's been an unusual year for ENPRO, the Newburyport firm that cleans up hazardous waste left behind by man-made mishaps like truck crashes and oil spills.
This year, there have been two significant disasters, both caused by deluges of rain, that have put the company on the front line of unusually massive cleanup efforts.
This week, the firm is finishing up work on one of the biggest natural disasters to hit New England in years — flooding and property damage in Vermont caused by Tropical Storm Irene.
"It's probably one of the largest projects we've ever worked on, said Geoff Brown, vice president of ENPRO. "There was so much devastation up there."
And earlier this year, the company picked up millions of plastic disks that washed out of a Hooksett, N.H., sewage treatment plant. The disks washed up on shorelines along the Merrimack River and were found as far away as Rhode Island.
In late August, Irene dumped up to 15 inches of rain on the state, causing the worst flooding Vermont has seen in 83 years. The ground was already partially saturated from a wet summer, and when the rains came, rivers and creeks turned into torrents that flooded everything along their banks.
ENPRO was already in Vermont and ready to respond to the storm, though initially it wasn't there to react to flooding, Brown said. Utility companies typically call on the company to clean up hazardous oil that spills out of electrical pole transformers, and it was expected that the storm would knock down numerous poles.
But flooding quickly became a major concern, and ENPRO found itself responding to flooded homes, trailer parks and a historic state office complex in Waterbury, where the Winooski River had overflowed its banks. The problems ENPRO encountered in the region ran a wide gamut, from overturned chemicals in the state forensic and agricultural labs to oil tanks that had broken loose in basements to a pair of full propane cylinders that had become wedged underneath a bridge.