Yes, 'Science, Facts and Credibility Matter'

By Amy Grant | Nov 13, 2020

Nordic Aquafarms’ recent ad included this headline: “Science, Facts and Credibility matter.” Why was the word “matter” in lowercase? Is it because the ad was filled with blatant misinformation and disparaging remarks? Nordic Aquafarms claimed that the Maine Department of Marine Resources and Department of Environmental Protection have “endorsed” them. The state of Maine does not endorse projects, nor do its departments.

Upstream Watch has relied on expert scientific testimony, including a highly regarded professor of oceanography at the University of Maine who conducted four years of study in Penobscot Bay. His data suggests that Nordic’s wastewater discharge could result in a continuous plume of effluent that would slowly flow past Bayside, circle around Islesboro, and move back into Belfast Bay.

Nordic’s own testimony states: “The information presented here is based entirely upon numerical modeling ... any predictions presented here should be considered only as estimates of the proposed dilution and plume behavior … it is recommended that a field data collection program be designed and implemented ... to validate the accuracy of model results.”

Where’s the site-specific data? Are we supposed to wait until 7.7 million gallons of daily effluent are circling the bay before there’s a clear understanding of where and how it would flow?

Nordic failed to meet the Clean Water Act and Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection requirements for nitrogen levels in its sworn testimony. It changed these numbers after the record was closed, with no outside review. The new numbers are at the limit of what is permissible and leave no room for system failures, warmer water temperatures or human error. The DEP expects all of this to happen, as it wrote in the draft permit: Where a discharge will result in lowering the existing water quality, the department has made the finding that this action is necessary to achieve important economic or social benefits to the state.

No one on either side asked for water quality to be lowered! Why is the DEP overriding its own regulations?

A number of people chose to believe Eric Heim when he said, “Our water will be cleaner when it goes out than when it comes in.” Upstream waited to actually review the science and technology proposed. One of our witnesses, a past chief of regulatory analysis for the U.S. EPA, noted existing “red flag” concentrations of nitrogen and oxygen in samples collected near the discharge site. Nordic’s limited sampling suggests problems and is inadequate to determine annual median nutrient levels.

There are alternatives to this massive factory — alternatives that would support our local fishing communities, provide tax relief, purchase reasonable quantities of water and help with climate change. We have the choice of gambling on unproven industrialization or working to improve the health of the bay and restore this ecosystem. We ask you to take a hard look at Nordic’s proposal, and to do what is right for the bay, for our communities, and especially for the generations to come.

Other experts Upstream has consulted with include a past director of licensing and enforcement at Maine DEP, a professor who is an expert in mercury contamination and who served on the Penobscot Mercury Study, and the president of a locally based environmental engineering firm with 30 years of experience. If disparaging these professionals is Nordic’s best strategy, is that because it doesn't have the answers? (A list of our experts and their qualifications is available at:

At present the Belfast Planning Board has 80 unanswered questions for Nordic. Why isn’t Nordic spending time and money answering those questions instead of trying to discredit those who have provided credible data? Last week the Board of Environmental Protection expressed disbelief at the complete lack of due diligence shown by Nordic, especially concerning wildlife impacts. It stated again that Nordic has not provided data on the Goose River. Upstream has been calling for those studies from the beginning. Please join us in asking for answers.

Amy Grant is president of Upstream Watch, a local environmental action nonprofit.

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Comments (3)
Posted by: Andrew Ellicott Stevenson | Nov 18, 2020 19:01

Here are six reasons I object to the salmon-raising facility that Nordic wants to build in Belfast.  One: it is not a zero-discharge design and not carbon-neutral.  Two: it is an extractive industrial operation that would contribute nothing to the ongoing restoration of Penobscot Bay and the hundreds of species stressed by nearly two centuries of exploitation.  Three: it can only be built if the property rights of a landowner between the proposed site and the intertidal zone through which Nordic must lay its saltwater intake and wastewater discharge pipelines are violated.  Four: serious concerns were raised about both the short- and long-term impacts of the facility's impact on the marine environment...questions that go beyond the information DEP and BEP have requested.  Five: Nordic has not committed the capital needed to build -- much less operate --  the facility, if built.  And six: Belfast would be a "guinea pig site" because Nordic has never run a facility of the size or complexity of the factory it wants to construct.  There are better, more sustainable RAS designs out there.

Posted by: Ralph Stanley | Nov 14, 2020 19:21

What's another word for due diligence?
Find another word for diligence. In this page you can discover 40 synonyms, antonyms, idiomatic expressions, and related words for diligence, like: assiduity, pertinacity, attention, industry, perseverance, sedulousness, persistent exertion, industriousness, inactivity, lethargy and indifference.

Posted by: Jacki Cassida | Nov 13, 2020 15:53

The DEP and the City Planning Board have done their due diligence, many times over. They will make the appropriate decisions and put forth the conditions that Nordic will fulfill. Regular testing and monitoring will be Nordic's due diligence. The Goose River is already being regularly monitored by the Belfast Water District. There are some worthy project proposals ahead and collaboration is something we hope can be considered as we move past this.


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