DEP: Baxter park waste dump went unlicensed for 12 years

Posted Oct. 21, 2008, at 8:18 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6:17 a.m.

BAXTER STATE PARK — For 12 years, Baxter State Park officials dumped human waste generated at the park on a cleared site off the park’s Tote Road that was never licensed for such use, according to the Department of Environmental Protection.

That oversight was corrected last month when the Baxter State Park Authority’s request for an after-the-fact license was granted by the DEP. The license, which was granted after the authority submitted an application and the results of soil tests, allows the park to continue to use the same 1.68-acre septic waste site on state-owned land in Township 5 Range 10 WELS. No one else is authorized to use the site.

Park Director Jenson Bissell, who did the research for and clearing of the site about 12 years ago before he became director, said Tuesday the site originally was built to specifications and that soil testing was done at the time of its development.

“There was, somewhere after that, a miscommunication about the licensing that I wasn’t aware of until it came up,” Bissell said.

Bissell said his earlier research was an attempt to find the best way to dispose of the human waste generated by visitors to the park. Rather than pay to have it trucked away, as was done in the past, it seemed worthwhile for the park to invest some time and energy into developing its own site, which was done, he said.

Each year the park generates about 25,000 gallons of septic waste from the vaultlike toilets used by visitors, according to Bissell. He said park officials generally pump the toilets once or twice a year depending upon where they are located in the park and the amount of use they receive.

In an application summary filed by the DEP, it was noted that the department had received information in 1994 that septic waste was being applied to land within the park. The DEP was told by former Park Director Irvin Caverly in September 1995 that he would seek approval for the site. Caverly later reversed his position and said he would not seek approval in November 1995, according to the document. No application was received by the DEP and no new information was received regarding the site until 2007.

That year, the DEP learned the park was indeed land-spreading the human waste, so discussions were held with Bissell about the licensing requirements. Bissell said he agreed to suspend the operation until the park received a license for the activity.

The activity went unnoticed until Bissell granted a contractor servicing the Allagash Wilderness Waterway permission to use the park site, Bissell said. State officials, who were alerted when the waterway contractor filed his usual activity report with them, found that the site was never licensed.

“We did let someone else come through and use it,” Bissell said. Since the waterway is another state organization and fuel prices are high, it seemed the right thing to do to help out a neighbor, according to Bissell. Bissell was told that the septic waste dumping by the Allagash Wilderness Waterway might take place once every six years.

Bissell said the septic waste site is located off Tote Road about three-quarters of a mile on what used to be an old access road that has since been discontinued. It is gated and there is no trail nearby, so there is no reason for anyone to be there, he said.

“Generally it looks like a grass field in the middle of the woods,” Bissell said. He said the outside perimeter would be painted and posters hung to warn anyone who may be in the vicinity.

Bissell, who said the DEP has been very helpful, was pleased that the matter has been resolved.

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