An aerial view of the two gravel pits in Lamoine where a test showed evidence of chemicals in groundwater. BOB DEFORREST PHOTO

Fuel compounds in well at Lamoine gravel pit are “first sign of something”

LAMOINE — According to a June test of groundwater at the John Goodwin Jr. East Lamoine gravel pit, one well on the site was reported to have higher than usual levels of fuel compounds.

The hydrocarbons found in the water didn’t reach unsafe limits, according to state standards, but did pass levels required to report their presence. Town Planning Board members met Monday evening to discuss the findings during their regular meeting.

“If we found this at Cold Spring, you could drink it,” said Board Chairman John Holt, referring to a nearby drinking water company where he works, “but it’s the first sign of something.”

According to town officials, this is the first time chemicals have been found in groundwater in Lamoine’s gravel pits. An ordinance adopted in 2013 required testing to be done on the industrial pits that operate in the town and reported to the code enforcement officer annually.

The testing and results were compiled by Bangor-based engineering firm S.W. Cole, authored by geologists Jeff McElroy and Clifford Lippitt.

The compounds found were C11-C22 aromatics, which are a group of carbon chain compounds commonly associated with heavier fuels. The test results showed 136 micrograms per liter, 64 parts lower than the maximum acceptable concentration, according to the report. Geologists with the firm carried out the test and answered questions about their findings for town officials through email.

The report states there was no evidence of a petroleum spill on the land around the well. Town officials said that when they visited the site they didn’t see any evidence of tampering or a spill.

Town officials during their meeting said there will be another test on the well in October. The results from that will show whether this was an isolated incident or a problem that needs to be addressed.

“No one appreciates messing up the water, it’s not to anyone’s benefit,” Holt said during the meeting.

But if that test shows fuel oil compounds again, Holt said he wouldn’t know how to move forward.

“The question is there’s nothing in the ordinance of what should take place at this point,” he said.

Holt reported that he’d contacted state agencies, including the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, but hadn’t been able to speak to anyone.

Residents also attended the meeting to express concern about the report. Kathleen Rybarz, a Lamoine selectman, as well as a member of the Friends of Lamoine group, asked why it had taken nearly three months for the report to be discussed in public, and whether residents would have to wait that long for results of the test in October.

“I’m just disappointed that it took so long to figure it out,” Rybarz said in an interview after the meeting.

Steve Salsbury, a land surveyor and contractor who serves as an agent for multiple gravel pit companies in Lamoine, said in response that it takes about two weeks for the lab results to be released.

Board members agreed that if the next round of testing showed more hydrocarbons in the water, there would be a process to determine the source of the fuel oil compounds. Member Richard McMullen said he was surprised chemicals could have seeped into the well, given that it was high above the water table.

“It seems like it would be a huge oil spill to go through 60 feet of gravel,” he said.

According to Rybarz, who lives near the Goodwin pit, the company has had a busy year due to a contract with the state Department of Transportation. Rybarz said many more trucks, including some not operated by Goodwin’s company, have been going into and out of the pit regularly.

“There’s less control,” she said of the abundance of trucks in the area.

Rybarz said she had attended the meeting because she knew the Planning Board would take action, if necessary.

“We really trust our Planning Board,” she said. “We have a lot of confidence that they’re going to do something.”

During the meeting, Planning Board members also approved two site plan reviews as complete enough to move forward in the application process.

One is an expansion for a road on Doug Gott and Sons’ property, which was approved unanimously.

The other was a renewal on a gravel pit permit for R.F. Jordan and Sons, which was passed 4-1 with conditions that some missing items be added to the application. Board member Don Bamman cast a vote against the Jordan application, saying he didn’t think it was complete because it was missing clear designation of ownership, land use district of the facility and it had an inaccurate table of contents.

Holt gave R.F. Jordan and Sons a week to provide that information to town officials.

Both the Gott and Jordan site plan reviews will be discussed at a public meeting on Oct. 2 at 6:30 p.m., preceding a regularly scheduled Planning Board meeting.

Jack Dodson
Jack Dodson began working for The Ellsworth American in mid-2017, and covers eastern Hancock and western Washington counties. He grew up in the Mid-coast region before living in New York City for five years, where he freelanced in documentary filmmaking and journalism. He is particularly interested in criminal justice, environment and immigration reporting.

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