WERU News Report 8/13/14

Producer/Host: Amy Browne

Through a Freedom of Access request, WERU has obtained records of communication between Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection and the Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery over the past several years, documenting a pattern of serious concerns about repeated phosphorus discharge violations (and formalin discharges in the past) from the hatchery and potential impacts on the adjacent Alamoosook Lake.

In a letter dated December 20th, 2010, a representative from Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection referred to what they called a “long list of violations” and underlying compliance issues dating back over several years. Quoting from the DEP’s letter:

“The violations include a few, isolated pH violations, consistent quarterly and annual total phosphorus violations, a long list of formalin violations and frequent incorrect reporting of the number of formalin violations”.

Formalin is a form of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. It is used to treat fungal infections. The phosphorus in this case is from the fish food and waste.

The letter goes on to say that the phosphorus violations were “a very serious concern, because the loadings are consistently increasing over time, with the violation of the annual total limit occuring earlier every year and amassing to a greater total every year”. The 2010 letter states that “The formalin violations are of serious concern as well” and says that Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery “needs to develop methods that will not only protect its fish stocks and rearing process, but that will not create toxic effects in the environmental” Further, the DEPs letter refers what they call a “large number” of incidents of incorrect reporting by Craig Brook on Discharge Monitoring Reports.

The next letter from the DEP to the fish hatchery that was provided to us via a Freedom of Access request is dated April 4, 2014. In that letter the DEP acknowledges that there have been no further formalin violations reported since 2011, but that “[t]he phosphorus violations are a very serious concern, because the loadings are far higher than the permit limits, which were established to protect Alamoosook Lake.”

That is followed by a letter and proposed Administrative Consent Agreement sent by the Maine DEP to Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery on June 18th of this year which includes a list of on-going phosphorus discharge violations, recommendations for addressing the problems, and proposed penalties for non-compliance, which include a fine of $100 per day for each day the hatchery is in violation. [NOTE: According to a lake assocation member, this figure could be higher, as the agreement calls for $100 PER VIOLATION per day]

The consent agreement isn’t valid until it is signed by both parties, and that has not yet happened. Because it’s under review, both parties refused to comment on the specifics.

Yesterday, in part one of this report, we spoke with members of the Alamoosook Lake Association, and a lake scientist who described the impacts of phosphorus on lake water quality, and ongoing efforts to monitor for those impacts on Alamoosook Lake.

Today staff at Craig Brook give us a tour of the 125 year old facility this week, and talk about the work they are doing there, trying to protect the various strains of Atlantic Salmon from Maine’s rivers from extinction. What follows are some excerpts – in some places you’ll hear the sounds of the water or fans running in the background. Our tour guides are Project Leader Peter Lemothe and Chris Domina, the Assistant Project Leader.