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  • Producer/Host: Amy Browne
    Studio Engineer: John Greenman

    A 2016 year-in-review of some of the topics we’ve covered on Maine Currents, and a look ahead to 2017

    Maine Currents- independent local news, views & culture on WERU-FM 89.9 Blue Hill, 99.9 Bangor, Maine and www.weru.org, Wednesdays 4-5pm Eastern

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  • Producer/Host: Amy Browne
    Engineer: John Greenman

    The latest chapter in a story we’ve been reporting on for nearly 15 years played out in Federal Court today, as lawyers for both sides in the Penobscot River mercury pollution case (Maine People’s Alliance and the Natural Resources Defense Council vs. Mallinckrodt Inc.) made their closing arguments. We start today with a press conference held outside the Federal Building held by the Maine People’s Alliance and the Natural Resources Defense Council—the 2 groups that successfully sued the huge corporation responsible for the major mercury pollution many years ago and are now trying to get them to stop delaying and start cleaning it up. We also have notes from the final arguments, and make the connection with the mercury in the bay and proposed dredging project by re-airing an August 2014 interview with Dr. Kevin Yeager, one of the court-appointed independent scientist who worked on the Holtrachem/Mallinckrodt mercury case and was later hired by parties concerned about the dredging project to take a look at the testing methods used by the Army Corps of Engineers.

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  • Producer/Host: Amy Browne

    The Department of Marine Resources held a public hearing in Searsport last night on a proposal for maintanence dredging at the Sprague Energy docks in that town. As we’ve reported previously, testing that was done last year near the Sprague piers found high levels– many above reporting limits–of a large variety of contaminants and known carcinogens including pesticides, heavy metals, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. In addition, Dr. Kevin Yeager, an independent scientist hired by the federal court in the Holtrachem mercury case, has examined the testing that was done in this case, and raised concerns that it was inadequate. The DMR will report any concerns about impacts on the fisheries to the Department of Environmental Resources. Today on the News Report, we bring you to last night’s hearing:

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  • Producer/Host: Amy Browne

    Rebroadcast of a segment of the WERU Special on the Searsport dredging controversy that originally aired at 10am on 8/25/14

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  • Producer/Host: Amy Browne
    Studio Engineer: Joel Mann

    The US Army Corps of Engineers and Maine DOT are proposing a dredging project in Searsport Harbor that would result in nearly a million cubic yards of materials being dumped in Penobscot Bay near Islesboro. The project would deepen and widen the shipping channel. Supporters say that would improve commerce in the port, but opponents say the economic and environmental risks far outweigh any potential benefits.

    Joining me in the studio today are Joel Pitcher of the Maine Lobstering Union, and attorney Kim Tucker. She represents the Maine Lobstering Union, Pemaquid Muscle Farm, and the Sierra Club of Maine as well as some individual members of the Zone D lobster council. The program also features excerpts from an interview with Dr. Kevin Yeager- an independent scientist who previously worked on the Holtrachem/Mallinkrodt mercury case in the federal court system. He is the author of a new report that raises serious concerns about the plan– among them the possibility that inert mercury in the sediment may be converted to a more toxic form and make its way into the food chain in Penobscot Bay. He also criticizes the methology the Army Corps used in their sediment sampling.

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  • Producer/Host: Amy Browne

    Segment 1: We have some breaking news today about the highly controversial proposal to dredge in Searsport Harbor and dump nearly a million cubic yards of sludge in the bay near Islesboro. In a report being released this week, an independent scientist who previously worked on the Holtrachem/Mallinkrodt mercury case in the federal court system raises serious concerns about the plan– among them the possibility that inert mercury in the sediment may be converted to a more toxic form and make its way into the food chain in Penobscot Bay. He also criticizes the methology the Army Corps used in the studies they are submitting with the permit applications. The agency was provided with a copy of this new report, but declined offers to discuss the findings with Dr. Kevin Yeager, the author, and instead is moving forward with plans to apply to the Maine DEP for the required Water Quality Certification, possibly as soon as the end of this week. There is still an opportunity for the public to request a hearing on the issue, and later in the program we’ll be talking with Attorney Kim Tucker about that, but first we’re checking in with Dr Yeager

    Segment 2: Earlier this year we spoke with Mike Belliveau, Executive Director of the group “Prevent Harm” about their campaign to have formaldehyde listed as a priority chemical under Maine’s Kid Safe Product Act. At the time, he reported that the state was backing away from steps they had already taken, under pressure from the lobbyists, including the powerful Koch Brothers. The rationale that was given was that the state needed further evidence of the dangers of formaldehyde. Now the results are in, a new report confirms the health risks and we checked back in with Mike Belliveau for an update

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  • Producer/Host: Amy Browne

    Segment 1: Maine People’s Alliance and the Natural Resources Defense Council went back to court today in their years-long battle to force the corporations responsible for the mercury contamination in the Penobscot River to clean it up, using the best methods available. We join them at a press conference outside the courthouse

    Segment 2: Attorney Kim Tucker has sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, outlining new information that she says warrants putting the Searsport dredge and dump plan on hold and re-opening the public comment period. She explains why.

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  • Producer/Host: Amy Browne

    Segment 1: It’s not unusual to hear of small businesses struggling, and eventually being forced to close, especially in this economy—but it IS unusual when a community rallies to save them. News broke earlier this month that Coastal Farm and Food in Belfast was shutting down. The local farmers and food producers who relied on them were being forced to move out. But some local residents decided they weren’t going to let that happen, at least not without a fight. Here to tell that story are two of the people most closely involved (Steve Fein and Peter Wilkinson):

    Segment 2: The problem of mercury contamination in the lower Penobscot river and upper bay has been receiving a lot of attention in recent weeks, after it forced the closure of the lobster and crab fisheries in the area. State officials estimate that it will be at least 2 years before the area is re-opened. But work to expose and deal with the source of the mercury from the former Holtrachem plant started more than 20 years ago, led by a grassroots movement of concerned area residents, the Maine People’s Alliance, and other environmental groups. Over the years, the Maine People’s Alliance has pursued the issue through the court system, winning a series of rulings forcing the former owners of the Holtrachem plant, a giant corporation called Mallinkrodt, to address contamination at the site in Orrington, as well as in the river. Their next big day in court is coming up in June, and they are inviting anyone who is concerned about the issue to join them in court on the opening day, June 3rd. At a presentation in Stockton Springs Saturday, Nancy Galland, one of the plaintiffs in the case, gave some background on the issue:

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