City to present Birch Stream cleanup plan

Posted May 24, 2010, at 11:14 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The city of Bangor is ready to present recommendations for construction of stormwater treatment systems, adoption of environmental policies, and implementation of programs aimed at improving the quality of water draining into Birch Stream.

For the last several months, municipal staff, officials from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and consultants with James W. Sewall Co. worked together to draft a plan for the stream that flows off Bangor International Airport into Kenduskeag Stream.

That plan will be revealed and discussed at a public meeting at 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 26, at City Hall. The 72-page draft includes recommendations for what to do, when to do it and how much it will cost to implement the activities and construction needed to improve the polluted stream.

“This plan is an attempt to predict the future,” the executive summary states. “Cooperation among all of the entities in the watershed will be necessary in order to keep this a vibrant, economically stable community.”

Birch Stream first came under scrutiny in 2003, when DEP officials began investigating contamination of the stream by a de-icing agent the nearby airport was using on military and commercial aircraft. While the airport was partially responsible for the poor quality of the stream, it was not the only source. The waterway runs un-derneath a dense commercial district along Union Street, including the Airport Mall.

Birch Stream is a small tributary to Kenduskeag Stream, which runs into the Penobscot River, which runs into the Atlantic Ocean. According to municipal records, the Birch Stream watershed encompasses 1,870 acres and includes 244 commercial, industrial, governmental and residential properties within its boundaries.

Wednesday’s meeting also will provide a summary of what property owners in the Birch Stream watershed can expect in the coming months and years. Property owners, including the city, are required by the Federal Clean Water Act and the Maine DEP to try to meet water quality standards. As such, the city is creating this plan of action in hopes that individual businesses and institutions, rather than acting independently, can act in a coordinated, efficient and cost-effective manner.

DEP staff also plans to review the regulatory and financial ramifications that an impaired stream could have on local government, institutions, businesses and residences in the watershed.

The planning effort has been funded, in part, by the Maine Non-point Source Grants Program through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, although some funding has come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Cost estimates for installing systems and implementing new programs have not been projected at this point.

The full draft plan is available at: http://www.bangormaine.gov/pdf/DRAFT_BIRCH_STREAM_WMP_05_19_2010.pdf. Questions may be directed to Wendy Warren, the city’s environmental coordinator, at 992-4255.

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