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Toxic waste casts cloud on Massachusetts solar co.

Jul 3, 2009 - Christine McConville - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Evergreen Solar Inc., one of Massachusetts' rising green energy stars, is on its way to becoming one of the state's top producers of hazardous waste.

The company generated more than a million pounds of hazardous waste last year, according to a report filed this week with the state Department of Environmental Protection, even though its new $450 million factory in Devens wasn't operating at full capacity.

"It's the other side of this whole clean energy push," said Liz Harriman, deputy director of the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

"Even so-called clean manufacturing uses a lot of nasty chemicals," she said.

Marlboro-based Evergreen Solar is one of 540 Massachusetts businesses that must report toxic chemical usage each year, as part of the state's Toxics Use Reduction Act.

The company's report for 2008 shows that it created nitric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrogen fluoride, and sodium hydroxide. Some of it was treated at Devens, while the restwas disposed of off-site.

An Evergreen executive told neighbors this week that the plant is operating at 40 percent capacity.

When the company's Devens plant is running at full capacity and making some 780,000 solar panels a year, sources say it could be among the state's top three creators of hazardous waste.

State environmental agents have not yet determined where Evergreen Solar ranks among hazardous waste generators.

But compared to the latest available data from 2006, Evergreen, even in a start-up year, was in the top 20 hazardous waste creators.

Yesterday, Evergreen Solar spokesman Chris Lawson defended the company and its "green manufacturing process."

He said the publicly traded company produces solar panels "with the smallest carbon footprint and quickest energy payback of any silicon-based manufacturer."

Last year, at a ribbon-cutting for the state-subsidized plant, Gov. Deval Patrick hailed Evergreen Solar as "one of the companies that's going to help us get clean energy right."


Updated: 2016/06/30

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