Processor to spread wastewater in Machias

Posted April 16, 2010, at 9:12 p.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — A blueberry processor is making plans to spread wastewater, the byproduct from cleaning the berries, on a 12-acre parcel at the end of the Machias Industrial Park.

Dan Balfour, environmental manager of Maine Wild Blueberry Co., a division of Cherryfield Foods, visited the Machias selectmen’s meeting this week to outline the project and seek permission to install piping in the town’s right of way.

Balfour said the process of spraying the wastewater is 100 percent regulated by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

“But it smells like stinky feet,” said Selectman Glenn Davis.

A public informational hearing on the project is planned for 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 21, at the Machias Telecommunication Building in the Machias Industrial Park.

Balfour said the company owns a 62-acre parcel of wooded land behind the existing Industrial Park. Maine Wild Blueberry Co. expects to use 10 to 12 acres for the water disposal.

He said the water will be sprayed as irrigation, similar to an operation used in Jonesboro.

“All major blueberry producers have similar sites,” Balfour said.

The company now must truck its wastewater to the Jonesport area for disposal.

“This method is extremely costly,” Balfour said. In November 2005, the company stopped sending the water to the Machias Wastewater Treatment Plant, and has been trucking the water since.

“We need to cut costs to be competitive,” Balfour said. “California, Chile and other places in the United States are producing cultivated blueberries.”

He explained that the wood on the land will be harvested and a pond constructed from blue marine clay. Once the irrigation system is up and running, monthly reports are required by the DEP.

“This process is heavily regulated,” he said. More than 60 test pits have been dug, checking the soil quality and type, and suitable sites for the pond have been identified. A DEP inspection of the site went well, he said.

Balfour said only local contractors will be used on the project. A road will be built off the end of Stackpole Road in the park to reach the site, and it will be gated. The company is proposing to put a pumping station at the plant and install an underground, 6-inch plastic pipe to the pond. The pipe would run along the town’s right of way beside the road as well as the edge of four town-owned but undevelopable lots.

Balfour answered selectmen’s concerns, saying that no aquifers were under the site, and because of its remote location, odors probably would not be a problem.

“This is a farming industry,” he added.

The project will save Maine Wild Blueberry Co. “tons of money and help us compete,” Balfour said.

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