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Commissioner's Highlights - March 9, 2012
•Commissioner Pattie Aho was the keynote speaker at a South Portland forum hosted by TRC (a national engineering firm) on PCBs and at the annual Maine Milfoil Conference in Lewiston. At the PCB forum –attended by 60 or so consultants, educational institution facility managers and other interested parties, the Commissioner conveyed DEP’s availability as a resource to those navigating PCB contamination and abatement and spoke about the department’s recent successes, including its improved permit process time, expanded assistance offerings and regulatory reform. At the Milfoil Conference –attended by about 200 people including members of statewide and local lakes associations, the Commissioner affirmed DEP’s commitment to sustaining the collaborative state and local efforts to protect Maine waters from invasive aquatic plants like milfoil. Protecting our lakes from invasives is in the interest of both Maine’s environment and its economy, given that lakes are a $3.5 billion economic engine annually that sustain 52,000 jobs and provide drinking water for half of all Mainers.
•DEP’s Northern Maine Regional Director Nick Archer and staff met with representatives from Huber Engineered Woods (Easton facility) as part of that office’s Ounce of Prevention meetings, scheduled with various industry entities on a rotating basis to inform, provide guidance/assistance and track progress related to compliance/regulatory issues and/or matters. These proactive meetings are designed to provide a rather informal dialogue/atmosphere, have been extremely well received and have fostered open and positive communication between the DEP and the regulated community/facilities.
•All six Maine power plants subject to the regional greenhouse gas initiative (RGGI) carbon dioxide (CO2) budget trading program certified compliance by the March 1, 2012 deadline. All six facilities certified compliance with the requirements associated with the program, including the requirement to surrender CO2 allowances in an amount equal to their CO2 emissions during the last three years. This marks the end of the program’s first control period which lasted from January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2011.
•Through the department’s Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund program, the Wells Sanitary District received a $1,245,000 loan ($124,000 in loan principal forgiveness) for HVAC improvements to its wastewater treatment facility. The project will address facility heating/ventilation needs, worker safety issues, and will reduce fuel oil consumption by an estimated 5,000 gallons per year. The Town of Washburn also received a $328,000 loan ($100,800 in loan principal forgiveness) for the replacement of a major wastewater pumping station. The project will help insure system reliability and reduce potential water quality violations to Salmon Brook should the existing pump station fail. The project includes an estimated $115,000 in energy efficiency improvements. These low interest rate loans and loan principal forgiveness promote sustainable infrastructure, maintain and improve water quality, and help maintain lower sewer rates for consumers.
•Shoreland zoning staff met with Scarborough officials to assist them with proposed zoning amendments to a portion of the Pine Point area. The specific area has been developed for many years with a mix of industrial and commercial uses and the development on many of the parcels far exceeds the limits for ordinary lot dimensional standards. The town is proposing to ease the restrictions within this area in order to eliminate many legally existing nonconformities, which should result in greater flexibility for landowners when considering re-development of some of the older industrial facilities. The department is very supportive of amendments within this area.
•Department staff from the Bureaus of Remediation and Waste Management and Air Quality met with representatives of Casella Waste Systems and the University of Maine to discuss the collection, treatment and transportation of landfill gas generated at the Juniper Ridge Landfill. The gas will be used by the University of Maine as an alternative to #2 heating oil at the university’s steam plant. The project is expected to save the university $15 million and decrease the Orono campus’ carbon footprint by 40 percent over the 20-year life of the arrangement with Casella. Delivery of the gas will require installation of a 6-mile long pipeline from the Juniper Ridge Landfill to the university.
•Cleanup continues at the former Plan-It Recycling/CLRS Properties demolition debris processing facility in Gorham. RJ Grondin has been working at the site for the last several weeks, removing waste that had been left at the site when the facility ceased operation in January of 2011. To date, waste removed from the site includes over 15,000 tons of mixed construction and demolition debris disposed of at the Juniper Ridge Landfill, 2,375 tons of asphalt shingles that will be beneficially used by Commercial Paving in Scarborough, and 26 tons of tires that will be shredded for beneficial use at BDS Disposal’s processing facility in Norridgewock. Over 800 tons of concrete and brick have been taken to a nearby Grondin pit for crushing and reuse as construction fill. The only waste material remaining on site is sorted demolition wood, which is being hauled to ecomaine in Portland for use as daily cover at the landfill during the summer of 2012. Waste stockpiled at the ecomaine landfill will be removed and burned in the winter of 2012-2013 when waste volumes are low. The wood will provide additional BTU content when incinerated along with the waste. Weather permitting, the site should be completely empty in two to three weeks, welcome news to Gorham residents.
•The Lead & Asbestos Hazard Prevention Program recently sponsored lead and asbestos refresher training for Maine’s Native American tribes. The training is provided in conformance with a Performance Partnership Grant funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The goal of the training is to provide and update the skills and certification required to work within Maine’s asbestos and lead abatement industry. Since 1998, the training has provided a valuable service to our tribes and state, with 70 percent of the initial attendees still participating in the program.
•The Coast of Maine Compost Facility in Marion Township, northeast of Machias, recently mounted a security camera 90 feet up its 120 foot communications tower which had been installed in December. The camera, which provides an expansive overhead view of this licensed compost facility, can be manipulated and accessed by DEP staff to conduct remote inspections of composting and storage activities onsite. In addition to providing high-speed internet service to the facility, the cell tower also provides this service to 40 nearby households within a 10 mile radius of the facility. The Coast of Maine paid for half of the cost of the cell tower. The project was completed through a partnership with Axiom Technologies of Machias and the Washington County Sunrise County Economic Council. The communication system was installed as part of the Coast of Maine’s plan for a substantial facility expansion. The application for an expanded composting surface and improved leachate and storm water collection and treatment is expected to be submitted later this spring.
•Staff from the Lead & Asbestos Hazard Prevention Program were included in a list of recognitions in a full-page ad in the Kennebec Journal purchased by the Bank of Maine Ice Vault (formerly Kennebec Ice Arena). The individual recognition was given for timely, on-site technical assistance given last winter to determine the safest and least expensive way to safely handle asbestos-containing materials identified in the debris resulting from the roof collapse of the Kennebec Ice Area in Augusta. A phased plan allowed for the quick demolition of the collapsed portion of the building to establish a safe working environment. Staff from the Division of Response Services was also recognized for their efforts.