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Planning Board discusses Nordic project's air emissions, visual impacts

By Kendra Caruso | Dec 23, 2019
Source: Journal files

Belfast — The Planning Board held one of its last public hearings on Nordic Aquafarms’ land-based fish farm applications Wednesday, Dec. 18, to discuss the project’s air emissions and visual impacts. No action was taken regarding the application's merits.

Nordic Aquafarms Project Director Ed Cotter and engineer Steve Whipple of Mainely Environmental, based in New Gloucester, discussed project emissions with the Planning Board. The only emissions coming out of the facility will be from diesel generators.

The generators will be used in emergency situations and for a limited time on certain days, mostly in warmer months, to relieve the power grid and reduce the company's electricity bill, a practice called peak shaving, according to Cotter.

“It’s (peak shaving) a unique opportunity that helps the applicant, helps the grid and helps the community in the area,” Cotter said.

Michael Lannin, an environmental engineer for Upstream Watch, an organization that opposes the fish farm, expressed concern about where the emissions might come down after they are carried into the atmosphere. He suggested that the board request a model from Nordic on that information.

Ellie Daniels, property abutter, was concerned that if the project is going to use peak shaving to cut costs then Nordic might be tempted to use non-environmentally friendly practices in its other operations.

Property abutter Jeffrey Mabee was concerned that diesel emissions, to which he said he is sensitive, could be carried to his property and create an unhealthy breathing environment.

The next day, the Board of Environmental Protection released its dispersion model on Nordic’s expected emissions, confirming that Nordic’s figures were in compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. It found Nordic’s figures to be far lower than required for a low-impact emissions license.

Nordic’s carbon monoxide emissions are expected to be 1,135.74 micrograms per square meter in a one-hour period, far below the 40,000 micrograms allowed, according to the BEP model. And 574.62 micrograms in an eight-hour period, below the state's 10,000 microgram maximum limit.

Nordic recently submitted an amendment to its application that raises its chimney stack height to 67.5 feet, which Cotter said will help to disperse emissions. A new visual impacts public hearing was scheduled for this application change, which came after BEP suggested that higher chimneys might disperse emissions better.

Cotter shared a series of models about how the property will look after it is completed, both before and after landscaping. The models show very low visual impact from the buildings and higher chimney stacks on the surrounding area. There was only one model that showed the chimneys could be seen slightly above the trees on Perkins Road.

Planning Board member Declan O’Connor requested that Nordic submit a model viewed from Route 1 in the future.

A resident wanted to see a model of the view from a bluff along the Coastal River Trail that locals frequent.

Lannin was concerned with the impact of lights on the chimney and its placement in the Belfast Municipal Airport’s flight path.

Cotter said smoke plumes will be seen in different severity depending on the weather, but he does not expect them to be visible every day.

A member of the public suggested that board members be at BEP meetings while it evaluates Nordic’s application. But city attorney Bill Kelly doubled down on his suggestion for the board not to attend so all board members have the same information, stating that it is unlikely that all members will attend the BEP meetings.

There has been increased tension between Nordic and its opponents since the company did not send a revised plan to the Bureau of Parks and Lands for a change in how its discharge pipes into the bay will be constructed.

Many opponents argued that it makes the company's application with Parks and Lands incomplete and the Board of Environmental Protection cannot consider the case until that application is amended.

BEP spokesperson Cynthia Bertocci said the board is considering the opponents' request to delay reviewing Nordic’s application until it revises the Parks and Lands application.

The last expected public hearing before of the Planning Board will be Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center, where it will consider traffic issues. Written comments can be sent to 131 Church St., Belfast, ME 04915 or emailed to planningandcodes@cityofbelfast.org.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Ralph Stanley | Dec 24, 2019 17:19

What of the emissions from the construction machinery during the supposed two year build out? Dump trucks, excavators, back hoes, cement trucks etc. I have had one construction project to build a house below mine for the past several months. Wind direction just so, there goes the morning air. Diesel engines all of which power this machinery are notorious for spewing unburnt fuel and ash in to the atmosphere. I did not see any mention in this report regarding the operation of this machinery over an extended period of time.



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