Despite nearly three full hours Jan. 26 devoted to review of Grimmel Industries Inc. site plan review application for a junkyard, the Planning Board voted to continue discussions at its next meeting, set for Feb. 9.

Grimmel representatives previously said the company plans to lease an existing pad located on Sprague Energy property on Mack Point to stockpile ferrous metals for shipping overseas. Planning Board Chairman J. Bruce Probert said site plan review is required for all potential junkyard sites and by the town's ordinance, scrap metal piles are considered junkyards.

The Board of Selectmen approved a junkyard permit Jan. 6. The Planning Board accepted public comment during a hearing Jan. 12 but delayed a decision on the application at the time, citing a need for additional information.

While many of the questions regarding noise and dust were responded to by the company, the Planning Board agreed to impose conditions of approval, some of which required more documentation from Grimmel and Sprague.

Conditions being considered include requiring a closed-loop water system to prevent contaminated water from entering the bay as well as requiring Grimmel — which will operate under Sprague's environmental licenses to be in compliance with air and water quality conditions imposed by the Planning Board.

"It's in our best interest to keep [Grimmel] in compliance," Sprague representative Jim Therriault said. He noted the lease agreement allows Sprague "to throw Grimmel out" if environmental safeguards are violated.

Some area residents opposed to the plans submitted a video of Grimmel's operation in Portsmouth, N.H., though few details regarding the weather conditions, type of camera and audio equipment and distance from the operation were available. Pierce Atwood attorney Brian Rayback, speaking on behalf of Grimmel, later said the video was of limited value to the Planning Board, as it depicts the operation in Portsmouth.

"Mack Point is a very different site," he said, noting the pad is in the middle of an industrial property in an industrial zone.

Attorney John Hamer, speaking on behalf of a group of concerned citizens, said the video was meant to provide an example of what loading and unloading of the metal will sound like as well as to give perspective as to the size of the projected 50-foot piles.

Rayback said the Grimmel operation will take place inside the secured Sprague property, with a 24-hour security guard on site. The public will not be allowed access and there will not be any processing of the metal on site in Searsport, he said.

Rayback touted the economic benefits the company could bring and said an average of $1.8 million per ship was spent locally in Portsmouth between, among other things, fuel, hotel rooms and wages.

"That's the kind of economic development most communities are excited about," he said.

Rayback emphasized repeatedly the differences between the Portsmouth site and the proposed Searsport site.

Sprague Environmental Compliance Manager Jason Littlefield spoke about regulations currently imposed as well as permits under which Grimmel would operate. He said Sprague already has a waste discharge permit but the state Department of Environmental Protection will advise what further tests are needed should Grimmel stockpile ferrous metals on the property.

Littlefield said there is drainage basin and retention pond system in place for the pad already that does not mix with other wastewater from Sprague.

Planning Board members suggested Sprague conduct some baseline tests of sediment from the retention pond as well as water quality to have a comparison prior to Grimmel beginning operations. Littlefield said the DEP process for dealing with violations is swift.

"We could be shut down," he said, if violations are found.

Rayback noted there are regular inspections of the Sprague facility and DEP inspectors often suggest proactive improvements.

"It's not a passive kind of inspection," he said.

Permits must be in place before any storm water is discharged, Rayback said.

Power Engineers representative Tom Wilson addressed the potential for dust coming from the piles of steel. He, too, noted differences between the Portsmouth and Searsport sites, including the complete lack of buffer in Portsmouth.

Regarding noise, Rayback said there is sufficient distance between the operation and the closest residence that it will likely not be a problem.

"We've never denied there will be some noise," he said, adding the distances in Searsport would allow even shredding to take place without going over federal noise thresholds, quickly adding there will not be any shredding taking place at Mack Point.

Another concern mentioned at the public hearing was the potential for loose pieces of metal to shred tires on busy Route 1.

"We think that concern was largely overblown," Rayback said.

He noted trucks will travel the Sprague property, passing over four sets of railroad tracks and the vibrations from that route should shake loose any stray pieces of metal before the trucks enter Route 1.

Asked about metal landing in the bay while loading, Rayback said it will be cleaned up with a magnet after each ship leaves.

"It's valuable scrap to Grimmel," he said. "They're not going to leave it in the water."

Hamer was allowed time for a rebuttal and he urged Planning Board members to have a plan in place to monitor water quality and to establish a "hotline" for reports of heavy dust.

"Leaving it up to bouncing across the railroad tracks is not a plan" for preventing stray metal from reaching Route 1, Hamer said.

Planning Board members closed discussions after about two hours and began ticking off findings of fact, as required under the land use ordinance. Upon advice from an attorney, the board deferred a decision regarding offensive waste, citing a desire to review the DEP standards for storm water.

After completing several other findings of fact, the board decided just after 9:30 p.m., with the approach of an expected blizzard, to continue its review at the next meeting, 6:30 p.m. Feb. 9.