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Commissioner's Highlights - March 23, 2012
•Commissioner Pattie Aho spoke to 150 people at E2Tech’s Environmental and Energy Policy Forum in Augusta on Thursday, along with Energy Director Ken Fletcher. The Commissioner highlighted the department improvements one year into the Administration, including our improved permit process time, expanded assistance offerings and regulatory reform.
•Commissioner Pattie Aho traveled to Austin, Texas for the Environmental Council of States spring meeting. The Commissioner is the Region 1 representative on the ECOS Executive Committee, and also participated in a panel on industrial energy efficiency, in which she spoke about Maine’s industrial sector innovation, efforts to expand natural gas here and implement licensing programs that encourage energy efficiency efforts undertaken by Maine’s industrial facilities.
•The department has secured Jotul’s Gorham manufacturing facility as the site for the new Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence, scheduled for April 19 at 10:30 a.m. Jotul employs approximately 90 employees at the facility, which has expanded from 40,000 square feet to 130,000 square feet in recent years, for production of its famous made-in-Maine wood and gas stoves.
•US Navy staff for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNSY) Superfund cleanup today received the FY11 Secretary of Defense Environmental Awards Program. The Navy project manager has verbally cited DEP and EPA as important contributors to the successful work leading to this prestigious award. Shipyard Commander Capt. Bryant Fuller said, "Receiving this award speaks volumes about the coordinated cleanup effort and the significant progress we have made. I couldn’t be prouder of our accomplishments.” Excavation of lead contaminated soil at Operable Unit 1 at the shipyard was completed earlier this month. The soil was in a tidally-influenced crawl space and excavation was performed with hand tools at low tide with limited head room. Lead contamination as high as 175,000 ppm was a result of leaky pipes leading to an underground storage tank that held battery acid from submarine battery recycling operations. The site will be cleaned to construction worker risk levels with land use controls under and around the building to prevent unacceptable risk to occupational and future residential users.
•A new minor source air emission license was issued to Woodland Pulp allowing for an existing dormant boiler to be converted from biomass to natural gas and to become operational again at the Baileyville facility, purchased from Louisiana-Pacific. Before operations ended in 2004, the facility had manufactured oriented strand board. The process equipment has been removed and only the boiler and emergency fire pumps will be brought back into service. Once the boiler conversion to natural gas is complete, Woodland Pulp plans to generate electricity to the grid through the associated steam turbine.
•Air licensing staffer Kathy Tarbuck gave a presentation to the Dragon Products Company Community Advisory Panel (CAP) at their March meeting focusing on a general overview of the DEP, the department’s relationship with Dragon’s Thomaston facility, the Facility Manager Pilot Program which Dragon is a part of and other DEP highlights. The CAP group, which meets approximately once every two months, consists of various community members and Dragon staff. Those in attendance were so impressed by the quality of the presentation and DEP’s increased customer-service focus that they invited the staff speaker and Commissioner Aho to speak at a June meeting of the Rockland Kiwanis Club. • Led by staff from Air Bureau, a team from DEP spoke at Pike Industries’ annual staff training days in both Auburn and Waterville, providing Pike employees with information on how to most reasonably be compliant with department-enforced environmental expectations. DEP’s participation in these training days is an example of the proactive assistance offered by the department as it commits to a culture of cooperation with the regulated community.
•The department hosted a delegation from the International Visitor Leadership Program that included two representatives from Thailand interested in water resource protection, mainly in river watersheds. The group has visited Washington DC, Pennsylvania, and after Maine they will be traveling to Ohio, Arizona and California. Acting Bureau Director Mark Bergeron and engineer Gregg Wood spoke on the federal Clean Water Act and how DEP administers and enforces those regulations and about enforcement and funding mechanisms.
•This week, the Report to the Legislature on the Shoreland Zoning Stakeholder Process was submitted to the Environmental and Natural Resources Committee. Stakeholders were originally convened to find ways to make the Chapter 1000 Guideline for Municipal Shoreland Zoning Ordinances easier for municipal officials and landowners to understand. The Shoreland Zoning Act requires that Chapter 1000 be updated every four years, and shoreland zoning staff ensure that those from the regulated community are heard during these updates. The Shoreland Zoning Program hopes the next update will make positive changes to Chapter 1000 to provide more clarity and flexibility to anyone living or working within the shoreland zone.
•The department approved the redevelopment of the former Kennebec Journal property on Western Avenue (Route 202) in Augusta. The development will consist of four commercial buildings (bank, retail, and restaurant), vehicular access and parking.
•Department staff met with the City of Waterville, its consultants, MDOT and the US Army Corps to discuss proposed improvements to the City’s airport that will remove trees that are within a height of 10 feet of obstructing transitional safety surfaces for airplanes landing at the airport. The City feared they would be unable to submit a permit application and receive approval prior to the date imposed by the FAA (May 1) for the removal of the hazard trees, but DEP was able to accommodate the City’s needs and will allow the removal of the hazard trees, approximately twelve, prior to the submittal of a permit application. The removal of these hazard trees will allow the City to receive FAA funding for the overall project (removal of hazard trees of a specific height in freshwater wetlands). In addition, the City will design the project to avoid Army Corps jurisdiction, saving significant time and cost.
•The department approved the addition of a 77-space parking lot addition at an existing medical office complex located on an 8.3-acre site in South Portland.
•Department staff recently sampled water from 24 homes in the New Gloucester Upper Village as part of the installation of a public water system. The system will be available to homes in the vicinity of major oil releases from underground storage tanks in the 1970’s and 1980’s.The data will be used to negotiate the department’s financial contribution to support the new water system. Department staff met individually with homeowners to explain the DEP’s program and provide water test results to help them decide whether to connect to the public water system or continue to use their own well. This personal touch often reaches people who are intimidated by public meetings. The Department will pay to connect homes with petroleum contamination above the drinking water standard, or at risk of being contaminated to this level. The Town of New Gloucester will pay to connect homes with wells contaminated with salt from the Town’s sand/salt pile at its municipal garage.