From the community

Federal Investigation begins into acid-polluted Searsport beach

Courtesy Lighthawk
Posted June 20, 2014, at 7:28 p.m.
Last modified June 21, 2014, at 10:28 p.m.
LIghthawk Photo
1984 waste spill overlaid on a 1097s map of the site..
mdep
1984 waste spill overlaid on a 1097s map of the site..

SEARSPORT. Tourists and local beachcombers visiting Kidder Point Cove in Searsport, Maine may be getting needlessly exposed to unsafe levels of sulfuric acid and heavy metals from a nearby abandoned manufacturing facility owned by GAC Chemical Corp according to the advocacy group Friends of Penobscot Bay.

Info portal on this issue http://www.penbay.org/gac/gacalum.html

The group says that because Maine DEP won’t protect the people by requiring the company to control its eroding wastes, the federal government is now stepping in.

The federal investigation of what is now known officially as Superfund Incident # 1084729 began June 10, 2014 with a report by the group to the National Response Center, the mandatory portal for all federal pollution complaints that is operated by the US Coast Guard.

After preliminary review at the Belfast Coast Guard station, the investigation has been elevated to USCG Commander Timothy Balunis at the Guard’s Portland headquarters. Timothy.G.Balunis@uscg.mil (207)767-0320

The Friends of Penobscot Bay say that at least a third of the wooden containment cradles built along shore in the 1940s & 1950s to hold highly acidic phosphogypsum waste, spent bauxite mud and other wastes have failed. Because the wastes have been allowed to leak and erode directly onto the beach and into the flats, the group suspects that visitors to the popular beach are absorbing unsafe levels of sulfuric acid and heavy metals while walking in the beaches and tidal flats adjacent to the eroding waste dump.

Ocean acidification researcher Dr. Mark Green of St. Joseph’s College in Standish Maine examined samples taken at the site under his guidance, “results presented here clearly demonstrate a significant anthropogenic acid source and should merit concern for the well being of local residents in contact with these sediments, recreation in the immediate area, and wildlife.”

“I’d be very concerned about several things,” Dr Green continued,” not the least of which is that with pH’s this low, metals will certainly be mobilized where otherwise they would be locked onto sediment particles.”

Sheila Dassatt, executive director of Down East Lobstermen’s Association applauded the federal initiative to examine GAC Chemicals shoreline wastes. “Acidification is a serious problem. Let’s get to the bottom of this,” she said.

Also adding his voice to growing chorus calling for action, Lobsterman Richard Nelson of Friendship a member of Maine’s newly-appointed Ocean Acidification Commission, has contacted Lt Commander Balunis for opening the investigation. Noting extensive restoration and cleanup efforts going on in Penobscot Bay and River,

Nelson wrote to Lt Commander Balunis that:

“Certainly it would not be wise to spend large amounts of taxpayers money on various projects with such a potentially negative stone unturned, as in the GAC case. I hope you agree that it would be worth the efforts to truly find out where we stand.”

Huber said members of his group will be at the contaminated beach every Sunday afternoon to inform visitors of the pollution issues there.

“This is a public health hazard. Let’s get it dealt with”, he said.

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