New test shows no fuel compounds in Lamoine gravel pit aquifer

LAMOINE — A new test of water from a well at the East Lamoine gravel pit has come back negative for any fuel compounds in the water table here.

A test in June showed that the water underneath a pit operated by Doug Gott & Sons Inc. and John Goodwin Jr. had higher than usual levels of hydrocarbons that make up fuel. After that report was brought to the attention of the town’s Planning Board, a new test was requested.

The new test, carried out Sept. 18, shows that the water is clean. Steve Salsbury, a representative for Gott and Goodwin’s operations, said he wasn’t sure what caused the issue in the first place but was happy the new report showed no fuel compounds.

The test was carried out by S.W. Cole Engineering, the Bangor-based firm that had also conducted the original test.

“It’s the result we were hoping for,” he said. But he said the results don’t explain how fuel was detected in the water to begin with. “It can’t explain what was going on with the first test … This is the first anomaly we’ve come across.”

According to Salsbury, neither Goodwin nor Gott’s pits are anywhere near the water table. State law requires that gravel pits maintain a 5-foot buffer above the aquifer. Salsbury said Goodwin’s pit is 50 feet above the water table, while Gott’s pit is 20.

Both companies will keep digging until they reach as low as they’re allowed to go, he said.

“It looks like there’s no issue,” said John Holt, the chairman of Lamoine’s Planning Board. “I’m happy that there’s no pollution.”

In September, Holt and Salsbury hiked to the site of the well to see if they could spot any issues on the ground. Both said the area was clean and had no issue.

“We saw no visible signs of spills or contamination,” Salsbury said.

Holt said while the matter is a positive development, he’s still concerned with how the first test came back positive. The Planning Board will receive the new report formally during its next meeting in November. Holt said he couldn’t respond substantively about the report until he’s had a chance to talk to his fellow board members.

Salsbury said his team will go back to testing wells once per year.

“It is our interpretation that the standard level of sampling (once per year) is sufficient to maintain the understanding of the groundwater quality associated with the East Lamoine gravel pits,” wrote S.W. Cole geologists Clifford Lippitt and Jeff McElroy in their conclusions.

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.