Public Lab Research note

Testing a Penobscot Bay, Maine beach and clamflat for heavy metals & other contaminants

by ronhuber | June 17, 2014 01:41 17 Jun 01:41 | #10577 | #10577

This is my first research note ever, so please excuse the roughness. The Friends of Penobscot Bay are seeking to have a contaminated cove in Penobscot Bay added to the Superfund National Priorities List, so that monies for remediation would be forthcoming. But to get getting the federal and state agencies necessarily involved in this review to look at all the concerns we've raised, we need to at least qualitatively test the tainted beach and flats ourselves for an array of metals, petrochemicals and acids in the wastes dumped into wooden shoreline containment cells in the 1940s, 50s and 60s by manufacturers of sulfuric acid, superphosphate fertilizer and alum. In addition, there has been at least one sulfuric acid spill into the wastes, in 1984 and one in the 1990s

We are very excited to work with public laboratory to come to understand the wastes laid down on Kidder Point over the past century and stimulate agency action protecting people and wild nature. Please help us work with you that they we can get GAC Chemical to be a good corporate citizen and "stop beating the bay!"

BACKGROUND (Starting with most recent) Our preliminary test in January of samples from the site at the southwestern end of Stockton Harbor has now triggered a Coast Guard-led review pursuant to the gacshore_lh_050113_aerial_metals_testsites_capt.jpg superfund law]( federal law barring the release of significant amounts of sulfuric acid into the environment. click here to take several tours of this cove (photogallery).

STATE OF MAINE WON'T ACT Because of apparent meddling by the political hierarchy, Maine Dept of Environmental has been unwilling to carry out more than a perfunctory visual examination of the site, with no field testing and no sample gathering for lab testing. They then released a report with no recommendations to act - or not to act

Because we are concerned that tourists and local beachcombers visiting the cove in Searsport, Maine may be unwittingly getting exposed to unsafe levels of sulfuric acid and heavy metals, we have embarked on gathering the evidence sufficient to trigger federal action.

We have done so regarding waste sulfuric acid, thanks to assistance from Dr Mark Green at St Joseph's College in Standish Maine A leading Maine ocean acidification researcher, Dr. Green examined site sampless gathered under his guidance in January, and found pH levels below 2 on the beach closest to the eroding shore, with pH slowly rising the farther away from the eroding bluff but remaining below 7 at the low tide line. Dr Green observed that such acidity liberates heavy metals and waste chemicals from silt, clay and other particles they may be bound to, making them more easily bioabsorbed by beachcombers, worm diggers and wildlife visiting the cove.

For that reason we want to gather information on whether heavy metal wastes are eroding onto the beach and flat - ourselves - competently enough that the results are an unequivocal smoking gun (or not) that can be helpful as scoping guidance to the federal agencies as they move forward in their process.

WHAT WE NEED 1. Testing. We need to test salty mud and sand for the presence of lead, cadmium, mercury, PCBs, and a host of other metals and chemicals. Samples need be taken directly from the waste dumps lining the shore of the point, more than a dozen feet thick in places above a marine clay bed that blocks rainwater from penetrating beyond any but a surface shallow aquifer Qualitative presence is fine, I believe, as least for starters I will list the chemicals and metals likely to be found in these wastes in a separate note or this one amended

2. Refining and synthesis of mined data from the past century of government and mercantile reports of site use of that site and environs, and local and regional news reports relating to that Kidder Point location (formerly "Kidder's Point") since 1900, when the first trial fertilizer plant was built there and began servicing Maine agriculture.

This should rsult in our having a clearer picture of the past present and future statre of this point and the harbor that it pokes into, smack in the middle of some of Penobscot Bay's most important estuarine waters.,

We hope that with the aid of Public Laboratory, we can successful Hack Penobscot Bay, so that decisionmakers, the scientific and public health communities and the public will have access to both up to date and historic information of everything from legacy wastes to present day licensed outfall activities, to the abundance & distribution of of fish and invertebrates from larvae and their planktonic forage species to adults and their prey, to the amount of Penobscot Bay's coastal forest cover disappearing under past and recent flurries of commercial and residential development. And much more

But detecting the presence or absence of heavy metals, hydrocarbons and pcbs in these salty muds and sand is our most urgent need-to-know and need-to-know-how priority.

Ron Huber, executive director Friends of Penobscot Bay


Great note!

I'm just going to paste in some of the comments from our email thread here, for reference:

"Note in this photo comparison the expansion of the peninsula between 1940 and 2011, with the spent phosophogypsum and bauxite wastes.

"Here is a 1984 site assessment that includes conductivity surveys of the beach and intertidal This should serve as a useful historic background standard.

"I also believe that the complicated geography of the most afflicted cove has an immense impact on where the wastes are going once they're off the eroding bank. This includes effects of the mitigation sandbar closing off much of it, the causeway illegally built to Sears Island in the 1980s (supposed to be a bridge!); the remains of stone walls from now vanished structures; all these concentrate the runoff and orchannel different wastes from different parts of the point into at least three separate outlets into greater Stockton Harbor."

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I would go after a test from the dept. of ag in maine. the university of maine has a great how-to. Lead is a standard on the test but I'll bet they do the other heavy metals.

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