A rechargeable lithium ion battery that was improperly discarded caused a fire at the ecomaine facility in Portland on Wednesday afternoon, a company spokesman said.

Operations staff at the single-sort recycling facility on Blueberry Road noticed a smoldering section of material that quickly filled the area with smoke, spokesman Matt Grondin said. The Portland Fire Department responded and quickly contained the fire, though smoke filled the plant for several hours while crews separated flammable cardboard and paper from the area.

A lithium ion battery from a tool caused a fire at ecomaine. Photo courtesy of ecomaine

Grondin said the fire appears to have started when a lithium ion battery from a rechargeable drill or similar tool was damaged and the volatile chemicals inside reacted and ignited nearby materials.

Lithium ion and other rechargeable batteries pose significant risks to recycling facilities across the country, including facilities that were entirely lost to fire, ecomaine said.

“We are exceptionally glad that no one was hurt, and that we are able to reopen today,” ecomaine CEO Kevin Roche said in a statement Thursday. “However, we need to impress upon Maine residents that rechargeable batteries must not go into the normal waste stream. This event reminds us that failing to follow disposal directions can have serious, real-life consequences, and can put livelihoods and property at risk.”

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