End of Summer Updates

Northern Lights on Jordan Pond on 9/7, Photo by Acadia Photo Safari

The summer of 2017 has not been without new developments in Lamoine. Among them:

  1. The time for the Public Hearing has been set for the permit before the Lamoine Planning Board for Harold MacQuinn’s  proposed new (expanded) pit to remove the rest of Cousins’ Hill at the center of Lamoine. Wednesday at 6:30 on September 27 at the Lamoine School gymnasium, will be the time and place for the hearing which may determine Lamoine’s future.
  2. Another Code Enforcement Officer has decided to call it quits. The town website has posted the job opening.
  3. Hydrocarbons, in this case with 11 or 12 carbons, have been found in small quantities at a test well in Doug Gott’s gravel pit, on 6/13/2017. The well is on the border with the Goodwin pit, so it’s unclear where the contamination originated. Well test results were discussed at Monday (September 11) night’s Planning Board Meeting.

 

1. MacQuinn’s application for a new pit would have not happened except that it was submitted before the No New Pits referendum was passed in 2014. The permit was rejected by the Planning Board in 2014 but MacQuinn sued because they claimed a Planning Board member had a conflict of interest due to his connection to the Cold Springs Water Company, which draws its water from under the affected area.

In 2016, a settlement between the town and MacQuinn agreed that the permit must be considered again, without the disputed member and according to the old ordinances in effect at the time. Since then, the Planning Board has been grappling with what is old and what is new, and whether to include new information without violating the spirit of the “do-over”. The hearing on September 27 at the Lamoine School gym should be spirited.

2. Our current Code Enforcement Officer wishes to take advantage of extended vacations as part of his approaching retirement, and feels his occasional absence would not serve the town well. He has agreed to stay on until a new C.E.O. can be found and trained, and will remain as Facilities Maintenance Director.

3. The aromatic hydrocarbons found in Doug Gott’s GW-3 test well were probably diesel fuel according a source at EPA’s fuel testing facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Diesel fuel contains 10-25% aromatic (ring shaped) hydrocarbons with the remainder aliphatic, or straight chained. The test well is located 2,000 feet from Blunts Pond (see photo). This is the first time detectable levels of hydrocarbons have been detected in this well since the three other testing dates of 8/19/16, 5/1/15 and 6/14/14. On  Monday, September 11, the Planning Board decided to accept Goodwin’s offer of a follow-up test to be conducted in October. Meanwhile, Planning Board Chairman John Holt will contact Maine’s D.E.P. to prepare for a response should the hydrocarbon pollution increase above 200 micrograms/liter.

Well location at red star. Image from Google Maps.

Lamoiners Learn Their Ice Age History

Dr. Hal Borns

On June 7, 2017 Friends of Lamoine sponsored a talk by Hal Borns, Professor Emeritus of Glacial and Ice Age Geology at the University of Maine. It was well attended, filling up our Town Hall to capacity. Video of the entire talk can be watched by clicking here.

Dr. Borns began by talking about the history of understanding about  Maine’s unique geology, beginning with the early 19th century belief that it was shaped by Noah’s flood to later evidence-based glaciology which emerged after 1850 with the theories of Swiss scholar Louis Agazziz.

He then covered the topic of esker formation and the “contact deltas” which formed at the point they reach the ocean. Lamoine’s Cousins Hill, he explained, is such a delta, and is a stop (#8) on his Ice Age Trail.

Click to enlarge.

He then showed a chart depicting the changes in temperature during and after the last period of glaciation to the present day. He pointed to a twenty-year period in which abrupt climate change occurred, a reversal of the overall warming trend in which trees were replaced by tundra. He emphasized that abrupt climate change is common in earth history and will occur again.

Click for larger view.

Returning to Lamoine’s Cousins Hill, Professor Borns presented a cross section showing how water is stored inside. The water table he said, mirrors the shape of the contours of the hill. At the edges of the hill, the ground water can emerge under pressure, an artesian well or spring. An audience member asked if removing gravel decreased the amount of water stored in the hill, he answered yes. In fact, he added, as pits are dug deeper, the water table will continue to drop, reflecting the contour of the land above it, resulting in decreased water storage. In addition, disturbing the top layer compromises the purifying ability of the gravel, since the “good bacteria” live in the soil above the gravel. Gravel alone does a poor job of filtering water he explained, and the state law which allows extraction to five feet above the water table is inadequate in Dr. Borns’ opinion. In the case of Lamoine’s Cousins’ Hill, if the water table were lowered to the level of marine mud, it could seriously impact the aquifer. Left alone, new soil will form in the pit and again purify the ground water, but only if there is enough separation between the soil surface and the water table. Continual disturbance of the pit floor as the gravel is extracted, along with the constant danger of spills will not protect our ground water.

How the proposed expansion of Harold MacQuinn’s Kittridge Pit will affect the Cold Spring Water Company’s water quantity and quality was clearly a concern in the question and answer session after the talk. Watch the whole video here.

 

Renowned Ice Age Geologist Hal Borns to Speak at Town Hall June 7 at 7PM

Dr. Harold “Hal” Borns, Jr. will address these and other questions at a special presentation on Wednesday evening, June 7, at Lamoine Town Hall. Dr. Borns is a world renowned expert on glacial eskers, those gravel and sand hills for which Lamoine is well known.

The talk, free to all, is a unique opportunity for Lamoiners to hear how prehistoric natural forces shaped our peninsula, our present geology and what consequences our human activities may have on what nature has given us.

How thick was the ice layer over Lamoine? How long ago did it melt? How did the hills form? Why is this peninsula so different from MDI? Which way does the groundwater flow in Lamoine? Is your well part of this ancient flow? How does the earth purify the groundwater?  Come to hear about this and more. Bring questions.

Eskers: Ice sheets developed melt water tunnels which filled with sediment. After the ice sheets melted, the sediment pockets became our gravel hills. From https://www.dmr.nd.gov/ndgs

 

 Presented by Friends of Lamoine, lamoine.org

Pit Expansion Application Incomplete

At the April 18, 2017 special Lamoine Planning Board meeting, the Board’s activity centered around checking boxes on two lists. One list was for the gravel permit application to expand the Kittridge Pit to include Cousins Hill, and the other was for the Site Plan Review which allows the expansion area to be considered for a gravel pit. A finding of completeness for both lists would allow the announcement of dates for the site walk and public hearing.

A recurring stumbling block in this do-over is the confusion between what is old and must be unaltered, and what must be updated. The settlement reached in late 2016 between the Town and Harold MacQuinn, Inc. stipulated that the original application must be resubmitted and judged according to the Town Ordinances of the time (2012). First item on the checklist proved to be emblematic of this confusion, the ownership information. The application states the owners as MacQuinn, Inc. and Ralph and Mary Miro, but now the property is owned only by MacQuinn. The item was considered incorrect, but complete. For several items of the checklist, the same issue arose. The property abutters were not correct. The pages of the application were variously dated either 2012 or 2017. The property plan had old, inaccurate contour lines according to audience member John Holt. The letter of credit was 5 years old. The stated amounts of gravel extracted were from 2011 and 2012. It was these two items, numbers 9 and 11 on the list, that were considered incomplete by a vote of the members. At this point it became impossible for a date to be set for the hearing.

It was suggested that the completeness be found with conditions to remedy the inaccuracies, and that the remedies be delivered by MacQuinn before the next meeting. Board Member Perry Fowler opined that this has not worked in the past, and that the Board has often faced pit owners with active permits and no inclination to fix old conditions. For this reason, the board affirmed the application incomplete.

Friends of Lamoine pointed out that several items were missing from the old/new application. Written testimony from citizens at the 2013 public hearing and opinions from Planning Board members written in support of their vote to reject the permit were not included.

Ellsworth American’s Jackie Weaver was in attendance and wrote an article about this meeting for the April 20, 2017 edition.

A Quick Advance for MacQuinn Pit Permit Application

FOL gets standing.

At the March 20 Lamoine Planning Board meeting board members, led by Vice Chairman Don Bamman, made relatively quick work of the “pre-application” process for the expansion of the Kittridge Pit to include Cousins Hill in the center of Lamoine. Jacqueline Weaver of the Ellsworth American attended and wrote a lengthy article which appeared in their March 23rd edition.  Apparently she did not realize that MacQuinn had purchased the property from the Miros in the period following his first application.  Other than referring to mining granite, rather than gravel, and identifying John Holt as David Holt, it was an accurate, informative report.

Friends Of Lamoine had two objectives at Monday’s meeting. One was to point out that board member Richard McMullen had testified in support of the application at the first public hearing on the permit application in January of 2013, and that he “spoke of relying on the ‘bigger gravel pits’ in town to support his own business” (excerpted from town minutes of the hearing). The reason this application is a “do over” is the fact that MacQuinn’s legal team took issue with a conflict of interest they felt Chairman John Holt represented, as board member of the non-profit Cold Springs Water Company. Friends of Lamoine, while not necessarily questioning McMullen’s impartiality, felt they had a right to use the same argument against his presence on the board for the same reasons. The request for his recusal was defeated with one abstention.

Friends of Lamoine also sought to achieve “standing”, a legal term making them a party to the process, similar to possessing the rights of property abutters. In this effort they did not fail, passing 3-2 with board members Richard McMullen and Perry Fowler voting against. As a community group with standing, they will have a right to appeal the decision of the Planning Board to the Lamoine Appeals Board or in court, and a right to address the board before and after the public hearing.

Board members and Don Bamman in particular, seem to be anxious to take advantage of the fact that this application had been done before, and conclude as quickly as possible. We can expect process to advance rapidly in the next few months, with a probable public hearing in late May.