Willem Brutsaert: Save and Protect Lamoine

We are lucky to have Willem Brutsaert living here in Lamoine. He is a retired professor of Hydraulics and Hydrology at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the The University of Maine, so he knows what he’s talking about:

BrutLetterLamoine faces a major decision with long-lasting consequences pertaining to a referendum question on the ballot of the upcoming June 10 Primary Election regarding changing the Building and Land Use Ordinance. This commentary is addressed to the people of Lamoine who might have been incorrectly influenced by the shortsighted and miss-guided phrase on the numerous “VOTE NO” signs along Lamoine’s roads these days.

A NO vote means continued destruction of Lamoine’s Rural and Agricultural Zone (most of Lamoine) and the destruction of its sand and gravel aquifer, Lamoine’s sole-source water supply. A YES vote in support of the referendum question, is a vote to “save and protect” Lamoine from further destruction: “No new gravel pits”.

Think about the future of Lamoine. Growth will inevitably continue. Lamoine will need the above-mentioned resources, that is, the rural-agricultural area and its concomitant water supply. A YES vote will “save and protect” Lamoine and ensure a sustainable future for Lamoine. A NO vote will protect the non-resident one percent, whose only interest is to clear-strip Lamoine of its landscape.

As very, very temporary stewards of this small space, called Lamoine, we have a deontological responsibility, a moral obligation, to “save and protect” Lamoine’s common good for the benefit of our progeny. If Lamoine votes NO, one day it will regret not having voted YES when it had the opportunity.

BrutLetter2Now, speaking as a groundwater hydrologist-engineer, strip mining sand and gravel off the top of an aquifer, removes the filtering effect of the sand and gravel protecting the quality of the underlying water supply, and in the case of Lamoine, the sole-source water supply, thus potentially exposing it to all sorts of pollution, and don’t tell me this will never happen in Lamoine, no matter how careful one might be. The idea, expressed at the public hearing of May 22 on the referendum question, that any potential pollution of Lamoine’s aquifer would come from the north of BrutLetter3Town, from as far away as Lucerne, or that any local pollution would quickly be flushed out, is incorrect and ludicrous, since most pollutants of concern, that is, hydrocarbons such as petroleum products and solvents, are immiscible with water and either adhere to soil particles or get trapped in “dead end” pores. These trapped hydrocarbons subsequently slowly biodegrade and very slowly dissolve in water, causing problems for our water supply for many years to come. A perfect cleanup is impossible. Another major negative effect of removing the sand and gravel is that the storage capacity of the aquifer is totally being eliminated, because, in applying the five-foot above the water table limit rule for extracting sand and gravel, there isn’t a very serious attempt to determine the “seasonal” high water table. And, we haven’t even discussed climate change and the effect it will have on the seasonal high water table. If precipitation is expected to increase for the northeastern US as predicted (many scientists are already reporting observable increases*), then all currently active and planned gravel pits are in deep trouble. When I last visited MacQuinn’s gravel pit north of Lamoine, I was literally driving on top of the water table! On that day, water was visible between the pebbles at the bottom of the pit. Lack of space prevents me to go into further detail within the framework of this forum.

*See for example the Commentary “On Global Warming” by W.Brutsaert, The Ellsworth American, 12 September, 2013; or The American Geophysical Union’s position statement on Global Warming and Climate Change: “Human Induced Climate Change Requires Urgent Action”, August 2013.

Willem Brutsaert, Resident of Lamoine
Emeritus Professor of Hydraulics and Hydrology
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
The University of Maine

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