Maine Firm Faces Oil Boom Roadblock

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- A Maine company that has 15 miles of oil containment boom sitting in a warehouse says it's been getting the runaround in its efforts to sell the boom and have it delivered to the Gulf of Mexico to help with cleanup efforts.

Packgen President John Lapoint III said BP has visited his plant twice to inspect his product, and that he has provided test results proving that his boom meets strength and abrasion standards. He said the situation underscores the need for the federal government to take a more active role in aspects of the spill cleanup.

"BP isn't a boom expert. They are drilling experts. They are oil experts," he said. "And their efforts and energies need to be focused on putting the plug in that hole and not being distracted by all this other stuff they need to do."

Packgen, a 32-year-old company based in Auburn, manufactures polypropylene containers designed to store and transport hazardous materials. After seeing there was a need for boom to contain the oil spilled in the Gulf, Lapoint altered the production process to make 70,000 to 80,000 feet of boom on speculation.

More than 2.5 million feet of boom has already been deployed in the Gulf to help contain the oil that has been spewing into the ocean since the April 20 explosion of an offshore oil rig, with another 586,000 feet ready to be deployed, according to BP.

Lapoint has been making his pitch to BP for weeks now, but his boom is still sitting in a warehouse in Maine. He's enlisted the help of Maine's two U.S. senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, and Gov. John Baldacci.

BP is scheduled to send an inspector to his plant for a third time this week, he said. In the meantime, he said he's provided proof that his product meets standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials showing the product makes the grade.

BP didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Collins said she's not convinced that the administration and BP are using all available resources to contain the spill.

"For example, we know that the Coast Guard has an immediate and ongoing need for additional containment boom. We also know this need will not abate any time soon," the Republican senator said. "Yet, a company in Maine that could help to produce this much-needed boom has had great difficulty in getting BP and the Coast Guard to take advantage of its capability."

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