Salmon farms release discharge figures

A tale of two DEP applications

Nordic pollutants projected lower than smaller Bucksport salmon farm
By Ethan Andrews | Oct 24, 2018
Source: Nordic Aquafarms The proposed Nordic Aquafarms salmon farm, pictured in an early artist's rendering, would rely on nearby Penobscot Bay for a steady supply of brackish water that would eventually be returned to the bay as treated wastewater.

Belfast — After months of official projections and public speculation, the first hard information about a contentious land-based salmon farm proposal is in.

In an Oct. 19 application to the Department of Environmental Protection for a Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, Nordic Aquafarms listed maximum amounts of nutrients and other materials that would be discharged into the bay in treated wastewater, along with chemicals and medicines that might be used at the facility.

The company hopes to build a land-based aquaculture facility on Route 1 near the Northport town line to raise Atlantic salmon for markets in the Northeastern U.S. The development — projected to cost $150 million to $500 million — would be built in three phases with a top production capacity of about 68 million pounds per year.

When complete, the facility would discharge 7.7 million gallons of treated water per day into the bay. The water would contain elevated levels of some naturally occurring nutrients, which has caused concern among opponents, who fear that the steady flow will imbalance the marine ecosystem, potentially leading to algae blooms.

Amounts of four major categories detailed in the application to DEP match Nordic's public statements from earlier this month. In the case of suspended solids, the amount in the wastewater would be less than existing levels in the bay. Others would come out in higher levels and be diluted by the surrounding water, according to Nordic Aquafarms.

The facility would discharge 357 pounds per day of biochemical oxygen demand, along with 1,483 pounds of nitrogen and 13 pounds of phosphorus.

The numbers line up with Nordic's recent projections. But perhaps more notably, they are smaller than those projected by Whole Oceans, another aquaculture company currently seeking permits for construction of a land-based Atlantic salmon farm on the former Verso paper mill site in Bucksport.

Whole Oceans would produce 11 million pounds of Atlantic salmon in its first phase, and up to 44 million pounds at full capacity, or about 60 percent of Nordic Aquafarms' production. However, it will be putting out significantly more water with higher concentrations of nutrients.

At full capacity, Whole Oceans could discharge up to 18.6 million gallons of wastewater into the Penobscot River, or more than twice the amount of Nordic Aquafarms, according to a draft permit application approved by DEP in June and amended in September.

The Bucksport facility would discharge almost 10 times the suspended solids as its Belfast counterpart in their respective first phases, while producing less than half the salmon. That disparity would increase at full capacity, when Whole Oceans anticipates putting out 19 times the amount of suspended solids as Nordic Aquafarms while producing about a third less salmon.

Wastewater from the Whole Oceans facility would have more than 21 times the biochemical oxygen demand, which can lower the dissolved oxygen content in water. Its average nitrogen content would be 2.6 times the maximum level from Nordic Aquafarms — Whole Oceans' application does not list a maximum nitrogen level.

While Nordic Aquafarms has met with steady resistance from local opponents, Whole Oceans has been received with open arms in Bucksport.

Some opponents of the Nordic proposal have said the Whole Oceans plan is superior because it is smaller and makes use of a former industrial site, whereas Nordic proposes to build on 45 acres of mostly wooded land.

Nordic Aquafarms' permit application had not been reviewed by DEP or deemed complete at the time it was made public by the department, according to Gregg Wood, who oversees aquaculture licensing. Wood said it would be reviewed in detail in the week after it was submitted.

The department is accepting public comment for Nordic Aquafarms. The public comment period for Whole Oceans' application is open until Monday, Oct. 29.

Comments can be submitted by mail to the attention of Gregg Wood, Maine Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Water Quality, Division of Water Quality Management, 17 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0017, or by email to gregg.wood@maine.gov

Comments (2)
Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Oct 26, 2018 10:58

Would this lean people believing their taxes are going way down or would the company shoot for half the valuation too?



Posted by: Mary Bigelow | Oct 24, 2018 20:05

Good article, Ethan. Thanks!



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