Jul 11, 2013

Searsport Harbor Dredging Plan: What's at Issue?

Have you heard about  the Army Corps' proposed mercury-liberating "dredge of dreams" plan to "spoil" Penobscot Bay?  

AT ISSUE: If Army Corps of Engineers has its way, then Prock Marine or another company's dredge gear will double the dredged area next to the existing Mack Point piers, carry out scheduled maintenance dredging. and take an 800,000 cubic yard bite out of the shoal between Sears Island and the rest of Searsport Harbor. 

Read the Army Corps of Engineers' Feasibility Study, the Appendices and the Sediment testing results for their "Searsport Harbor Enhancement" project

While the maintenance dredging is needed to maintain access for the freighters and tankers that use Mack Point port, the doubling of the area near the pier will involve unearthing a great deal of petroleum tainted waste and other muck  ("..coal, slag and petroleum odor were encountered..." said the sediment testers.) This waste should NOT bne dumped into any Penobscot Bay's disposal site. Instead upland toxic waste landfilling will be necessary

Sears Island Shoal. Dredging here has no purpose other than to create a ghost harbor for the Sears Island ghost port, stillborn in 1995 and unable to attract a would-be port builder (Note "existing dredge area" that the new dredging would provide access to.
Some things don't change.

WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?  Petroleum and mercury contamination
The Army Corps study describes the  harbor sediments that would be dredged thusly:
(1) An upper layer of Searsport Harbor sediments is a 2 to 5 feet thick layer of "very soft black organic silt"  with "a strong organic odor". In addition,  "..coal, slag and petroleum odor were encountered" in the proposed dredge area closest to the existing piers

2. Below that black organic matter, the Corps found a layer of  brown silt that is also contaminated - though to a lesser degree, the report says. 

3. Then comes gray marine clay, up to twentyone feet thick, the upper part mixed with sand and gravel, with "lenses of rust colored sand."

The corp claims that all this material may be dug up and dumped in the deeper area of the bay, But lobstermen and others in the know from perevious dredging projects in the bay  hold that if dredging proceeds, the black organic matter and the brown silt must be dumped upland, along with the contents of the "lenses of rust colored sand" which could be old rusted out waste barrels from the 19th or 20th century.

Worse than oily waste is the findings of extensive mercury deposition 

The Maine Department off Marine Resources, US Army Corps and other agencies prevail, then, tainted  silt plumes dislodged by the dredgers' jaws will  rise off Wassumkeag and spread throughout Searsport Harbor, and to Belfast Bay, leaving a patina of the deadly metal dusting the seaweed, clams, the lobsterbait in trap, the lobsters - and  lobster eaters.

Meanwhile, mercurious spoils dumped onto the Rockland Disposal Site will, under the sway of  prevailing deep bay currents, be sent streaming back north along both sides of Islesboro, back to Belfast, to Searsport, to Castine; coming together in the shallows of the upper bay.  

So say those who fish the upper bay and know it well.   Should the Corps get approval and then dump into the site between Islesboro and Belfast instead... - the mind boggles.

Nor will  only our waterbreathing cousins imbibe this neurotoxin.   New research shows that marine methylmercury that reaches shallow waters  transfers quickly and efficiently into the microdroplets of spring and summer bay fogs. 

There it can transfer to seabirds' lungs - and yours. As well as every leaf in  our foggy coastal forests and island homes and gardens.


Keep the Army Corps of Engineers from loosing this deadly menace  upon Penobscot Bay.  Already methyl mercury levels of some upper bay lobster claws and tails  have risen above state and federal food safety notification  levels,  

One ring that could sink the hard gained marine sustainability certification of Maine lobster, by requiring mercury warning labels on live and processed lobsters from frozen tails to lobster rolls and stew.

One ring that, science shows, would bring methylmercury  to all airbreathers of the upper bay.

The Army Corps of Engineers hopes to get the okay this summer.

The people are rising against this needless dangerous plan.  

Got creative? Express your self -  at the ghost port

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