To the Editor:
In the midst of the ongoing debate about PERC vs. the proposed Fiberight trash plant, I’ve been wrapping my head around how we value our water resources.
Per the MRC’s projection, the Fiberight plant in Hampden would consume 90,000 gallons of water per day, 2 percent of the municipal water supply, in a wash-down process using enzymatic hydrolysis to leach materials from the region’s municipal solid waste. When asked, at Penobscot’s special town meeting to consider the Fiberight proposal (ultimately rejected), where would this water come from, MRC Director Greg Lounder replied, “from Bangor’s water supply, Floods Pond.”
Meanwhile in the new “Maine Lakes” issue of “Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors,” in “Lakes So Clean You Can Drink Them,” science writer Catherine Schmitt cites Floods Pond as one of eight Maine lakes of “such high quality that they qualify for a waiver from EPA’s filtration requirement.
After Bangor officials finally recognized that the Penobscot River had become too polluted to drink in the 1950s, the city found Floods Pond, located in a relatively undeveloped forested area just 15 miles away. The Bangor Water District (BWD) owns nearly 99 percent of the land in the watershed [in Otis and Clifton], giving it control over what happens – and doesn’t happen – in the sensitive areas that surround the pond.
The pond hosts a native population of wild Arctic char [aka Sunapee or blueback trout] – a fish that lives only in the purest of waters. In 2014, Bangor won the award for “best tasting” water in Maine. We are lucky in Maine to have access to such clean, healthy, well-managed water.
It is hard to reconcile the use of such a precious, well-managed resource in processing municipal waste for decades to come if the Fiberight plant goes forward. The Bangor Water District claims a dependable yield of 8.2 million gallons per day, and current daily use (in Bangor and Hampden) of 4.3 million gallons. Maybe there’s enough water to go around; but is this the best use for such a pristine resource? The water is taken not only from Floods Pond and its watershed but its aquifer, which runs from the Springy Ponds in Clifton, along Beech Hill Pond in Otis, to Graham Lake. Yes, BWD owns the land around and under Floods Pond, but who owns the water that flows through it?
Why not intake Penobscot River water instead? It’s now a much cleaner, freer-flowing river than it was, thanks to the Penobscot River Restoration Project. But then there’s the other end of waste processing: Fiberight projects an increase in effluent of over 100,000 gallons of wastewater per day that will need to be treated, then overboard-discharged into the recovering river. That too is hard to reconcile.
As for “access,” unlike Hatcase Pond, Eagle Lake, Silver Lake, Branch Pond and other great ponds tapped as municipal reservoirs in our region which allow public access for recreation, with Floods Pond, we are not so lucky. BWD’s Floods Pond property is gated off with ominous “No Trespassing” signs, like a military compound, without so much as a hand-carry launch access. If the city is OK with these pristine waters being used in washing municipal waste, then why not allow recreational access? Why not let Floods Pond be enjoyed for low-impact recreation such as hiking, paddling, swimming in designated areas and “fishing and fowling”?
These are just a few of many practical, environmental and ethical concerns facing us now and in times ahead regarding conservation and management of Maine’s freshwater resources.
Jane Crosen Washburn