June 20, 2018
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Mining proposal threatens Orono Bog Boardwalk

Brian Swartz | BDN
Brian Swartz | BDN
Rain-laden clouds sweep toward the Orono Bog and its boardwalk on a warm, moist summer afternoon in late July.
By Jason Stoner, Sharon Ashworth and Meg Fergusson

An application from Thornton Construction to the Orono Planning Board proposes a 30-year lease for mineral extraction of slate — including blasting, crushing and stockpiling rock — approximately three-quarters of a mile from the Orono Bog Boardwalk and Rolland F. Perry City Forest.

We believe active mineral blasting, stone-crushing activities and other quarry-related operations off Kelley Road on properties abutting Orono’s Bog Boardwalk, a registered National Natural Landmark, would profoundly diminish the Bog experience, its ecosystems and aesthetics.

The Caribou Bog and Bangor city forest are precious community resources — places to rest as well as exercise, a site for solitude and psychological rejuvenation. A gem within our community, the Bog Boardwalk improves quality of life and attracts people to the greater Bangor community from all over the world. At least three imperiled plant species grow within this unique peat bog. Diverse wildlife, including black bear, deer, barred owl and the leopard frog, make it their home.

Why do we need to add rock blasting, sounds of a rock crusher and industrial trucking to this ecosystem? Prevailing winds through the bog are from the north. The proposed blasting site is to the north and above grade relative to the bog, creating quarry dust release and toxic groundwater runoff concerns. Quarry dust can block plant stomata (breathing apparatus) and carry toxic heavy metals like vanadium, a known respiratory irritant to humans. Sphagnum mosses (i.e. bog mosses) are among the most sensitive to this dust.

In addition to the potential adverse environmental effect on the bog, a number of municipal questions remain unanswered: Can poor-quality road pavement in the area support heavy trucking? Can large trucks safely enter the Kelley Road-Stillwater Avenue intersection? Is the new Forest Avenue roundabout capable of handling large trucks?

Kelley Road west of I-95 is in disrepair and easily one of the worst roads in the town of Orono. Are taxpayers expected to assume the cost of pavement repair? The construction applicant has agreed, in principle, to provide only the “base materials” for the anticipated roadway restoration.

Predicted nuisance noise from blasting, rock crushers, and the lack of a defined noise ordinance for the Orono Low Density Residential district would negatively affect not only those enjoying the Bangor city forest and Orono Bog Boardwalk, but nearby neighborhoods as well. The proposed quarry site is 1,100 feet from residential properties with private well water and septic systems.

The Orono Town Council, per Town Charter Code of Ordinances Sec. 1.1.10, has the opportunity to, on its own initiative, submit a proposition for the enactment, repeal or amendment of any ordinance to be voted upon at municipal elections.

The Orono Development Committee and Orono Town Council earlier this month rejected a proposed moratorium on mineral extraction permits, which would have enabled a 180-day grace period to allow additional public discussion and a formal municipal vote on a revision to the Low Density Residential ordinance.

We propose the Orono Town Council initiate the said moratorium and submit to the voters an opportunity to protect the Orono Bog and surrounding areas through a referendum that would allow voters to repeal and amend the Orono Land Use ordinance Sec. 18-106 by eliminating mineral extraction as a scheduled use in the Low Density Residential district.

If you use, appreciate or want to protect the Orono Bog Boardwalk, Caribou Bog and Bangor city forest, contact the Orono Town Council and Planning Board at info@orono.org. Let them know you oppose mining and mineral extraction within the Low Density Residential district. Support the proposed moratorium on Low Density Residential district mining permits and ask for a municipal vote on a permanent ordinance change in March 2014.

The Contractor’s quarry application, Orono Planning Board Summary, and area maps can be viewed at kellyhillquarryinfo.com. The next public forum on the topic will take place at the Orono Planning Board meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 16, at Orono Town Hall.

Jason Stoner, Sharon Ashworth and Meg Fergusson are residents of Orono and members of the Kelley Hill Neighborhood Working Group. Contact them at orono@googlegroups.com or visit their website at kellyhillquarryinfo.com.

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