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  • Producer/Host: Amy Browne
    Contributing producer: Matt Murphy

    Segment 1: A standing-room-only crowd packed into an informational meeting at the Hutchinson Center in Belfast yesterday to hear details about the US Army Corps of Engineers and Maine DOT plans to dredge Searsport Harbor. The proposal is to deepen the channel near Mack Point to 40 feet, from the current 35, and to dump the sediment—nearly a million cubic yards of it — into Penobscot Bay.
    Supporters say the depth needs to be expanded to 40 feet to accommodate larger ships and increase shipping traffic. Opponents have pointed out that Portland harbor is the same depth as Searsport currently, and does a great deal of business, and that there is already a deep water port in Eastport.
    Most of the opponents of expansion dredging have voiced support of routine maintenance dredging, but there is concern about dumping of the sediment, which would most likely be done off the coast of Islesboro. While the ACoE recently stated that the materials are clean, and would not pose a risk to the fisheries in the bay, recent testing of the sediment near the adjacent docks has revealed a long list of heavy metals, carcinogens and endocrine disrupters – many present in levels severals times above the reportable limits.
    After a slide presentation, which can be viewed on the Army Corps of Engineers website, the public was given an opportunity to direct comments and questions to representatives from the agencies at yesterday’s meeting. Today, in the special extended version of the WERU News Report, we’re bringing you some of the questions and comments, and the response from the reps from the state and federal agencies present. All but one person who spoke expressed concerns about the proposal, and the room was a sea of red shirts, worn to indicate solidarity with the lobstermen’s unions that have come out in opposition to the plan:

    Segment 2: Matt Murphy with a report on efforts to raise funds for work against human trafficking – an interview with musician Peter Alexander

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  • Producer/Host: Amy Browne

    A standing room only crowd packed a public meeting last night in Bangor to learn more about – and comment on—the Army Corps of Engineers and MeDOT plan to dredge a channel in Searsport Harbor and dump the sludge near Islesboro

    The location of the dredging would be within a few miles of the area that last week was closed to lobster fishing for at least 2 years because of mercury contamination from the former Holtrachem plant. And while the ACoE is relying on a 2008 report that found that chemicals, heavy metals and other pollutants in the sludge were within what they call “acceptable levels”, testing that was done last year near the adjacent Sprague Energy pier found high levels–above reporting limits–of a large variety of contaminants and known carcinogens including pesticides, heavy metals, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Also, the testing methodology that was used to detect mercury, was rejected in the Holtrachem case as being faulty. According to Kim Tucker, an attorney representing the Zone D Lobster Council and the Sierra Club, “the Corps instructed Sprague to use a testing methodology that the court’s expert’s in the HoltraChem case said will under-estimate the level of mercury by a factor of 2.0….

    (Clips from the presentation and public comment period)

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  • Producer/Host: Amy Browne

    Segment 1: It was announced yesterday that the Maine Department of Marine Resources is closing an area near the mouth of the Penobscot River to lobster fishing, for at least 2 years, due to mercury contamination. But nearby there are plans underway to dredge up highly contaminated sediment near Mack Point to expand the depth of the channel there from 35 to 40 feet. Testing done as part of the permitting process has revealed a long list of carcinogens and endocrine disrupters in the sediment. And plans to dump the roughly 1 million cubic yards of that toxic sludge elsewhere in Penobscot Bay have lobstermen’s associations, town councils and state representatives very concerned. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that an informational meeting about the project, to be held Monday, is slated to be held in Bangor, in the evening, rather than in one of the coastal communities at a time when the island ferries are running.
    We spoke earlier today with Kim Tucker, an attorney working with the Zone D Lobster Council and the Sierra Club, and with Ron Huber, Executive Director of Friends of Penobscot Bay. Some photos of the site: penbay.net/dredgesite.jpg and penbay.net/dredgemap.jpg

    Segment 2: Dennis Marble, Executive Director of the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter, weighs in on how Gov. LePage’s veto of Mainecare expansion is impacting homelessness. Recorded by Matt Murphy

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  • Producer/Host: Amy Browne

    31 Maine Legislators have signed onto a letter to the US Army Corps of Engineers, requesting a Comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement or “at the very least a Supplemental Environmental Assessment” for the controversial Searsport Harbor dredging project. If completed, the project would allow access for larger ships. It would also result in the need to dispose of what has been estimated to be close to 1 million cubic yards of sediment – sediment from an area that has seen more than 100 years of chemical companies, industrial spills and questionable disposal of waste along the shoreline. The dredged material would then be dumped elsewhere in Penobscot Bay, possibly in a dump site between Belfast and Islesboro. This has raised serious concerns about the potential impacts on the environment and the fisheries in the area.

    State legislators and representatives from the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club and Islesboro Island Trust held a press conference at the Belfast Boathouse this morning, to explain their concerns. (Coverage of the press conference, and interviews with Marietta Ramsdell of “Friends of Sears Island”, and Ron Huber of “Friends of Penobscot Bay”

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