Jul 19, 2013

GAC Chemical Corp moves closer to waterfront waste removal.

Searsport. Advocacy group Friends of Penobscot Bay asked Searsport's Planning Board's help getting local company GACChemical to halt the erosion of industrial wastes dumped by past tenants of the company's Kidder Point property, that are washing into Stockton Harbor. 

The group also called for GAC to remove an abandoned factory and tank onsite that aerial photos suggest are also leaking wastes into the harbor. After the meeting, company chief David Colter hinted that remediation could start by early August. Details, link to audio, below.
GAC's abandoned factory and tank. Stockton Harbor past treeline.
Noting the Planning Board's recent decision to reject DCP Midstream's giant tank plan has given the board a moral force for protecting their community, Friends of Penobscot Bay executive director Ron Huber said, We would like you to use whatever force you have available to get GAC to commit to dealing with the legacy industrial waste dumps along its shoreline." 
GAC Chemical's abandoned factory on right; operating facilities on left. MMA Railroad separates the two
He said this is especially important here, as Penobscot Bay is "America's Lobsterbasket" and a worldclass scenic destination. The bottom line is, he told the planning board, "a healthy, ecologically productive and naturally beautiful bay is a profitable bay." 
Huber to Planning Board: Help GAC clean up its shore.
Listen Here to Huber's presentation and questions from the Searsport planning board. (15 min mp3)

Huber praised GAC Chief David Colter for keeping the company's  present operations well in compliance with its EPA permits.  Mr. Colter runs a tight ship at GAC,“ Huber said.

But unlike its present operations, Huber said, GAC Chemical has a disappointing record on cleaning up industrial wastes that previous businesses have left behind on the company's mile long shore since the the start of the 20th century.
Old factory & tank, center right.Tainted flats, left.
“As we speak," Huber said,"a variety of wastes left on the shore half a century ago are still eroding and leaking into Stockton Harbor."
"These include bauxite tailings and other wastes dumped along the shore in the middle of the last century  that have contaminated the intertidal flats, and unknown  materials leaking from an abandoned factory, chemical tank & pipeline on their waterfront.” 

Huber gave the planning board copies of a photograph of the site showing the eroding wastes, contaminated mud and abandoned buildings and said GAC is the responsible party
GAC's abandoned tank above eroding bluff and alum tainted mud

FOPB: "GAC can do this by committing to creating and implementing a shoreline remediation plan and an intertidal flat remediation plan."

Huber said the Friends of Penobscot Bay incorporated only last fall.

"However, the members of our board have each spent decades or even lifetimes responsibly exploiting the bay or protecting it. We fish the bay for lobsters, sea urchins, sandworms and bloodworms, clams and mussels, we run tourism businesses dependent on the bay's scenic assets, we use advocacy and litigation to defend the bay from pollution inappropriate development. 
GAC Chemical's Stockton Harbor shoreline: Ceramic waste.
Noting that a year had passed since the company struck an informal agreement with the Friends of Penobscot Bay to start ending waste erosion, Huber urged the company to move forward on its own initiative. 

When Searsport Planning Board Chair Bruce Probert suggested going to the enforcement branch of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Huber responded that his group would prefer not to go the  enforcement route. He urged GAC to do proactively what's right for the health of the bay, not because a government agency makes them do it.

 "GAC can do this by committing to creating and implementing a shoreline remediation plan", he said, "and an intertidal flat remediation plan."

Following Huber's  presentation, GAC Chemical's CEO David Colter came before the planning board seeking permission to install housing for a gas regulator, as part of their plan to switch fuels from oil to natural gas. 
GAC's Colter: to Board: No Tank. Yes gas tankers.

Instead of one big gas tank onsite, GAC would connect a succession of tanker trucks that would pump gas into the facility as needed.

A minor kerfluffle ensued when Colter halted his testimony to object to FOPB's placement of an audio recorder on a table close to him. At the planning board chairman's request, Huber,who had been recording the meeting from its beginning, moved the recorder to a location out of Colter's sight.

But persistence may have paid off. After the meeting Huber met with Colter and apologized for distracting him. But he also repeated that the conservation group was “getting a little exasperated” with GAC's year-long series of delays in its promised startup of fixing their waste erosion problem.

Huber said that when he pressed Colter to come up with a timeline for starting the cleanup, the GAC chief indicated that he would have a shore erosion plan ready in two weeks.


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