From Waldo Villagesoup/Belfast Republican Journal
Grimmel scrap metal application approvedEPA concludes 'mercury not a concern in this application'
SEARSPORT — Final approval for a scrap metal storage operation at Mack Point was given May 11.
Planning Board members unanimously voted to approve the application by Grimmel Industries LLC following a brief public hearing, during which residents voiced concerns about mercury as well as air and water quality.
Grimmel submitted a letter to the Planning Board April 29 with documents requested by the board, including best management practices by Sprague Energy Corp., on whose property Grimmel will operate.
Attorney Brian Rayback, speaking on behalf of Grimmel, said the company chose to abide by tougher federal standards in regard to its SWIP, or Solid Waste Implementation Plan. He told board members the Department of Environmental Protection granted Grimmel its own stormwater permit.
“This approval only applies to the discharge of stormwater,” he said. “We are not seeking to discharge anything else into the water.”
Rayback said there was a discussion about metals dropping into the water and the company has designed new “curtains” to prevent transfer of metals from contaminating bodies of water. A magnet is also used to clean up the water in the case of any loose metal, which is valuable to the company, he said.
Residents wondered why the DEP did not have a public hearing before issuing Grimmel's permit; Rayback clarified a hearing is optional but the agency is always open to accepting comments on proposals.
“It's inherent in the nature of that that it's a quick turnaround time,” he said. “We worked closely with the DEP because we knew this would be under scrutiny.”
Resident Ann Crimaudo said she had a letter from the federal Environmental Protection Agency stating a hearing would certainly take place before a permit was issued. She said she understood the board could not do anything about the lack of a hearing but wanted the EPA letter included in the record.
Ron Huber of Rockland, executive director Friends of Penobscot Bay, encouraged the Planning Board to consider strict monitoring of the operation. Steve Tanguay shared his concern staffing levels at the local and state level are too low to adequately monitor contamination levels.
Rayback noted neither EPA nor DEP guidelines include monitoring for mercury levels, an area of concern repeatedly brought up by residents.
“EPA concluded that mercury is not a pollutant of concern in this application,” he said. “… It's a very difficult thing to monitor for and we agree. … The DEP general permit says you don't have to monitor for mercury or any other metals if you're a scrap metal dealer. … We are confident we can meet the standards.”
Rayback later said the company does not plan to monitor or test for mercury.
“If Grimmel isn't doing anything harmful, they don't have anything to worry about,” Selectman Meredith Ares said.
Rayback said he has little knowledge of the mercury testing process or its associated costs.
“It's not as simple as setting the baseline and imagining it as a constant level,” he said.
Sprague Environmental Compliance Manager Jason Littlefield said the EPA believes acid rain is to blame for random shifts in mercury levels.
“It takes years to come up with some sort of baseline,” he said. “ … It's a difficult pollutant to come up with a source.”
Rayback discouraged the board from attempting to create monitoring guidelines on its own.
“We don't have anything to hide; we don't think we are the source of it,” he said. “I'm worried about setting up a testing program that's scientifically defensible.”
While the application received conditional approval in February, the board voted again on the conditional items — unanimously agreeing the conditions had been met — and also, upon the advice of town attorney Bill Kelly, on the application as a whole.