Dredging, dewatering and deposit of dredge spoils into the waters of the state

By Paul Bernacki | Sep 25, 2020

Maine Department of Environmental Protection staff's draft permit recommendations to the Board of Environmental Protection were released to the public a week ago.

These recommendations dismiss the dewatering of at least 20,000 cubic yards of very fine sediments as "inconsequential." Nordic’s and Cianbro’s proposed dumping of unspecified hundreds of thousands of gallons of water containing suspended sediments and mercury into the shallow inshore waters adjacent to the beaches of Northport and the essential fish habitat, affecting at least 12 acres of the bay, is an utter abrogation of the NRPA enforcement and licensing obligations of Maine DEP/BEP.

On March 19, Greg Wood, the DEP water quality engineer, in response to a conversation with me the day before, stated:

“As I conveyed to you on the phone yesterday, the AAG’s office is looking at this matter and as of this email, nobody has made a determination as to whether or not this activity requires an individual MEPDES (Maine Pollution Discharge Elimination System) permit.”

This was over a month after the close of the hearings and record.

At the time, I responded to Mr. Wood and the attorneys of the Maine DEP and the Maine Attorney General's Office by email, and as none of these issues have been responded to, or are contained as a review or consideration in the draft license recommendations, I repeat my comments below.

“Thank you for the confirmation that, as we read it, the Nordic Aquafarms outfall and intake pipeline into Penobscot Bay, dredge spoils dewatering, which is specified by Nordic’s NRPA application Appendix C  "in the record," is proposed to be accomplished 'adjacent to the pipeline route.'

"As such, does this discharge qualify as a nonexempt 'point source discharge to the waters' of pollutants, and must it be considered as needing a separate MEPDES application?

"Of course there are some missing pieces in this process, before a dredge spoils/dredge dewatering point source MEPDES discharge permit could be initiated or reviewed. These include:

"An actual Submerged Lands Dredging Lease application, which would have scale drawings of the dredge area, both plan and profile, created by a licensed engineer 'in the record';

"A number certain, based on sediment analysis and competent engineering, contained in the application of the amount of 'excess dredge spoils,' dewatering quantity and sediment percentages;

"An approved federal or state Sampling and Analysis Plan and testing results to the depth of dredge in the area of the actual dredge, not composite samples from 'nearby';

"DEP staff officially requested consultation and reports from the Maine State Geological Service 'in the Record';

"A dredge spoils dewatering plan, not just the inadequate 'erosion and sedimentation plan';

"An actual upland disposal site, and license application for the actual activity based on tests performed on the actual project footprint, confirming what contaminants these 6,000 to 20,000 cubic yards of spoils contain;

"Availability of Cianbro/Woodard Curren’s engineer James Wilson PE, project manager for this dredge, in person at required adjudicatory public hearings, and thus available for testimony and cross-examination by the Intervenors, not the inexpert Ms. Walsh, 'environmental manager' for Cianbro;

"The actual engineering work performed by contract engineers ATM and withheld by Nordic from the DEP proceedings on the pipeline construction, including anchoring, scouring and redeposit of sediments, soils and foundation stability, and the data supporting that work;

"A plan and construction narrative that is internally consistent within the applications and the draft project description.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that Nordic is willfully cutting corners and that the onus of holding this company’s feet to the fire regarding the U.S. Clean Water Act and Maine’s NRPA is disproportionately on the citizens who believe in a lawful and equal application of that law to all comers for permits."

As of this writing (Sept. 15), Maine DEP has confirmed that the Mandatory Federal Sampling and Analysis Plan test results of the actual dredge location sediments are being withheld from it by Nordic.

So much for open and honest. So much for law, science and equal application of such for mega-projects.

The Maine DEP and BEP seem to be hell-bent on issuing licenses for this industrial feedlot.

The applicant and its agents arrogantly withholding the complete engineering and testing forced on them by the federal government is just more of the same.

I would call for the resignation of the commissioner of the DEP who officiated over this farce, but he has, in a timely way, removed himself from office and joined Gov. Mills in the Blaine House as her personal fixer, on state payroll.

Paul Bernacki is a Living Shoreline stabilization consultant. He lives in Belmont.

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