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At Planning Board

Wells dominate talks on Nordic freshwater use

By Stephanie Grinnell | Sep 25, 2019
Photo by: Stephanie Grinnell A slide presentation by Nordic Aquafarms outlines two aquifers in the city, one used by Belfast Water District to the north and the other surrounding Nordic's site six miles to the south.

Belfast — Groundwater use proved the most controversial topic Monday night as the city Planning Board took up the freshwater portion of Nordic Aquafarms’ application.

The company plans to build a land-based salmon farm just off Route 1 near the Belfast/Northport line. It hopes to use three difference sources of freshwater to raise salmon from eggs to market-size — its own drilled wells on the property, surface water pumped from Little River reservoir and water purchased from Belfast Water District.

Nordic Aquafarms Project Manager Ed Cotter said the project was designed based on how much water the local district is willing to provide. He noted the district also has a priority list in case of low water supplies, and that Nordic would be one of the first industries impacted.

“It anybody’s concerned about what our impacts are,” he said, “ … this is really the order that’s going to prevent that happening.”

Should the company have to limit its use of water supplied by the district, Cotter said, it plans to make adjustments to sources and/or salinity.

“We have a plan here that helps us balance and optimize (water use),” he said.

Others working for Nordic echoed Cotter, including Thomas Neilson of Ransom Consulting and Dr. Michael Mobile of McDonald Morrissey Associates.

“The primary goal is to build resiliency,” Neilson said. “That’s the overarching theme with the three sources.”

Mobile spoke to extensive testing of the wells on the property and said there is expected to be little impact on nearby private wells. Part of the company’s plans will include regular monitoring of wells within 1,000 feet of the facility, as required by city ordinance, and “up to 15 wells are or will be included,” according to a fact sheet handed out at the meeting by Nordic Community Liaison Jackie Cassida. Neilson said the wells are between 1,000 and 5,000 feet from the site.

No wells on Perkins Road would be monitored because all homes on that road are connected to the Water District. Several Nordic representatives assured board members that steps will be taken to ensure area residents have access to good water, up to and including drilling new wells or connecting residents to city water if Nordic’s activities are found to be the cause of private well problems.

Elizabeth Ransom with Ransom Consulting said, “Water quality is important to Nordic, too.”

She noted the company drilled a variety of depths for test wells and found that deeper wells did not create a significant improvement in performance because of the type of aquifer in the Little River Watershed.

Belfast Water District draws its water from a separate and different type of aquifer — Goose River Watershed — located six miles northeast of Nordic’s proposed facility. Superintendent Keith Pooler said in his 28 years with the Water District, he’s never asked anyone to ration water. Recent talk of poor water quality decades ago, he said, can be blamed on some residents receiving water directly from the Little River.

“I think with the poultry plants using water … customers got Little River water that’s a lower quality than (city) wells,” he said. “… (Some) people waited until night so they could get water from the wells, not Little River.”

Pooler said the Goose River Watershed gains much of its “recharge” from rainwater because of of the type of soil. He said the offer made to Nordic for 500 gallons per minute (256 million gallons per year) was based on a dry year and still being able to supply city residences and businesses.

Cotter said even if the company were shut off from Water District supplies because of extreme circumstances, he anticipates being able to remain in operation indefinitely, though it would reduce efficiency in growing the salmon.

At one point, a member of the audience broke in and tried to comment as Nordic officials were answering questions from the Planning Board. Chairman Declan O’Connor asked him to “just let the process work” and make his comments when the public hearing opened.

Planning Board members also expressed concern about how future development and industry in the city could be impacted by Nordic’s high water use. Cotter noted that a typical residence might use 10 gallons per minute. He said that with new home construction, city officials encourage connection to city water.

Planning Board alternate member Hugh Townsend asked about using more water from the Little River reservoir but Cotter said the quality of the water “is not ideal” for the company’s purposes. The size of the treatment plant dictates how much surface water can be treated as well, he said.

“It looks good going over the dam but, at some point, that’s wasted water,” Townsend said.

Cotter also pointed out that Nordic’s water use is expected to be consistent.

“This will be a 24/7 operation not impacted by time of day,” he said, adding there could be peaks depending on the production schedule. “…The system design is not based on our needs, it’s based on what’s available.”

Speaking as an expert witness for the Planning Board, Matt Reynolds of Drumlin Environmental LLC said he has a few concerns with Nordic's plans.

“But, overall, the work that’s been done by Nordic is detailed and appropriate,” he said.

Reynolds said he is concerned about the unknown impact on private wells once the company is up and running and encouraged the city to be sure there are remediation plans in place. As well, one well on the site has a fairly shallow fracture at 130 feet — water enters the wells through fractures in bedrock — that has the potential to make that well draw down faster. Other locations on the site might offer a more consistent water supply, he said, but the company chose not to use those locations because of proximity to neighboring private wells.

“There’s some potential for changes and impacts to residential wells,” he said, later adding, “But I don’t anticipate a significant change in water availability.”

On behalf of Upstream Watch, a group of neighbors, John Krueger said he is concerned about the condition of the two dams on the Little River. He also expressed concerns about saltwater intrusion and the possible use of firefighting chemicals at nearby Belfast Municipal Airport. Ellie Daniels, who owns property on Perkins Road abutting Nordic but currently lives in Searsmont, said she is concerned about the increasing gallons of water requested by the company and spoke about climate change and its effect on water supplies worldwide.

“I just continue to be confused and distressed,” she said. Daniels read from a document provided to Maine Public Utilities Commission, which approved the agreement between Nordic and Belfast Water District, that states there is “no specific contractual curtailment” of water to Nordic in the first six years, despite the priority list.

In addition to a handful of others offering verbal comment, a half-dozen people also submitted written comments to the Planning Board about the company’s proposed freshwater use. The board discussion is expected to resume at the next meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 9; however, the agenda has not yet been set.

Agendas for all Planning Board meetings are posted on the city website.



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Comments (11)
Posted by: Eric Schrader | Sep 30, 2019 18:42

Now Ralph, that's a cogent argument and analysis. Keep it up! Truman couldn't stop the metastasizing of the CIA into a unstoppable cancer.

Posted by: Ralph Stanley | Sep 28, 2019 19:13

This conversation will be mute. Nordic does not have RTI. I will grant you support for Trump in his "apparent" struggle with the "Deep State." Hard to know what government we have has in the interests of the folks who carry on day to day. Whistle blower is CIA? Wasn't the CIA created during the Truman administration solely at the discretion of the president. They were established to only provide the president with intel. Wow. So we have the Deep State spying on an elected individual. Truman wanted no part of their agenda but it was too late and not to be. Deep state is not a conspiracy derived idea. It is entrenched long term government. Government employees waiting for their pension. 3 million alone associated with the Executive branch. WTF?

Posted by: Eric Schrader | Sep 26, 2019 20:39

You got that right, Ralphie. Every time you try to respond in kind, you get used to wipe the floor, just like Trump wiped the floor with pencil neck Adam Schiffmeister today.

Posted by: Ralph Stanley | Sep 26, 2019 20:04

Don't respond to Herr Dbag directly. One begins to sound like his alter ego. Give comment as you wish, but point on point argument is useless.

Posted by: Eric Schrader | Sep 26, 2019 18:10

Hey Riley, do you have any clue what you are rambling about? You're getting just as bad as Ralphie. I have an idea. Go read the Paris Climate Accords and give us the cliff notes (you do know what cliff notes are since you used them in your government education) and tell us what it says about all the other countries in the world. You'll know why the US rightfully pulled out. "difference between a "non-binding resolution" and "proposed legislation"? you ask? Let the euroweenie Democrats get back into power and they'll use every slimey tactic to get that crapola passed.

Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Sep 26, 2019 13:09

one question is the salinity in the spring and if Nordic can achieve the levels they need.  Between the snow melt and fresh water run off the amount of fresh ground water may not be the problem.  I do know the businesses on the bay drawing water from the bay for lobster tanks must close the systems down completely because of the fresh water in the bay.  Especially given the melts and blows from the south.

Posted by: Kevin Riley | Sep 26, 2019 09:16

"So give us all the links from AOC"

Hey Schrader, it looks like you really do have a reading compression problem.

I never said the original quote came from AOC, never. I said she misquoted the original paper.


No! Never! There's absolutely no point in posting links to actual demonstratable facts for you because you don't care. You have your "truth" and you will never research anything that could possibly show you anything different.

That's binary thinking or as I said earlier target fixation.

The "Countdown Clock" has nothing to do with the pending client crisis. It's actually The Doomsday Clock Maintained since 1947 by the members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Also, it seems you still have a problem understanding the difference between a "non-binding resolution" and "proposed legislation"

Posted by: Eric Schrader | Sep 26, 2019 04:30

Hey Riley, the countdown clock is part of the commie pinkos "Green New Deal". You know the one that all the domestic euroweenies all got behind. So give us all the links from AOC and her band of merry millennials. And don't forget your hero, Greta, who turned on her scowl face at the UN to chastise the whole world for existing. Gosh, I hope she doesn't procreate. AND Stanley, can you see the lights of Belfast yet? I guess that outhouse is becoming your permanent home because you're so full of it that you need to tether yourself to it's front door since you can't afford to wear Depends. Are you sure you don't have a "thing" for Ellie Daniels? You can buy her house on Perkins Road and become a taxpaying Belfast resident, then you'll finally have standing to sound off. And it's Mr. Schrader to you!

Posted by: Kevin Riley | Sep 25, 2019 19:23

"since we only have 12 more years to live according to the Climate Crisis advocates,"

You keep using that misquote from AOC. She is the one that initially stated the misquote of the paper on camera and it has become a whole uniformed mess.

I would post a link to the actual quote from the paper but I know you will ignore it. If you actually read it you wouldn't believe even though it would be from the original author.

Hint, it doesn't say what you think it says.

Target fixation much?

That's a military term


Posted by: Ralph Stanley | Sep 25, 2019 19:21

Bark all you want, Herr Blowfish. Same barking noise over and over. Nordic does not have ownership of the tidal land. They don't have it. No fixing, no further massaging of turds will create what is coming to their realization that they cannot fix what was in their face from the beginning. They can't back down at this point as they have come too far. Poorly played. They know it.

Posted by: Eric Schrader | Sep 25, 2019 18:47

Ellie Daniels, who has a house on Perkins Road that will back up to the NAF facility, but now lives in Searsmont, says that she is "confused and distressed" about the water usage after year 6 of the NAF operation. I'm confused and distressed myself knowing that her lawsuit against the City of Belfast absorbed upwards of $ 70,000 of valuable resources that could have helped many of our residents in need. She lost the lawsuit and her life goes on, but the City must less discretionary resources.

Well, since the NAF phase 1 will not be functional for at least 3 years and since we only have 12 more years to live according to the Climate Crisis advocates, then we'll only have to worry about 3 more years until doomsday descends upon us. She spoke about planting a tree near her house in clay like soil and it was difficult to dig a hole for the tree. Not quite sure what that has to do with the discussion of NAF water usage. She spoke of the recent Climate Crisis strike and that an "extreme event" could be in our future according to NPR (National Public Radio, a bastion of liberalism supported by our tax dollars). Everyone should be reminded that Belfast already had an extreme event for years back in the 60's into the 80's. It was called the chicken and sardine processing plants along the Harbor that were consuming up to 600 million gallons of water a year, whereas NAF is projecting that their maximum consumption wouldn't exceed 262 million gallons or 56% less usage. And the chart about priorities puts NAF far down the list of water consumers in the event that there is a catastrophic water shortage. So in closing, the technical discussion about water needs to be left up to the hydrologists and geologists that are not going to put the watershed at risk.

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