Group pushes for Androscoggin upgrade
AUGUSTA - The cleanliness of the Androscoggin River is again up for debate.
a researched proposal submitted by the Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, an
environmental group based in Richmond, the state Department of
Environmental Protection declined to recommend upgrading part of the
lower Androscoggin in a bill before the Legislature's Natural Resources
DEP officials said more information is necessary
before they would recommend re-classifying a portion of the river,
spanning from Worumbo Dam in Lisbon Falls to Merrymeeting Bay, from
Class C to Class B.
"How is that river behaving at critical
conditions and what's the implications of the upgrade?" asked Andrew
Fisk, director of Maine DEP's Bureau of Land and Water Quality. "We
think it's only reasonable that we go forward with our eyes completely
Fisk said until the DEP completes a water-model test
there would be no way of knowing what adjustments would have to be made
by those who discharge into the river, such as the cities of Lewiston
and Auburn, to maintain the higher classification.
If the river
was granted a higher classification, those who discharge into it would
be held accountable if it fell below the new, stricter standards, Fisk
The cities have already spent millions on improving the
water quality of the Androscoggin and are scheduled to spend millions
more before reaching their outlined goals.
Jim Bennett, Lewiston
city administrator, said Lewiston supports the re-classification with
the understanding it would not cost taxpayers additional funds.
if (re-classification) were to change our licenses for discharge or
require a more aggressive combined sewer overflow schedule, we'd want
to have a conversation about that," he said. "In terms of economic
development, we recognize that the riverfront is a unique competitive
advantage that we have over other places and we want to capitalize on
But Ed Friedman, chairman of the Friends of Merrymeeting
Bay, said the DEP is applying a double standard to the Androscoggin,
and that a culture of anti-Androscoggin exists within the department.
you want to upgrade the river, you just are supposed to show that the
water quality already stands at the level of the next highest
classification," Friedman said, asserting that his group has provided
DEP with such data.
Friedman said the DEP's claim that it needs to conduct a water model simulation before re-classification is false.
"The law says absolutely nothing about that being a requirement to upgrade," he said.
Fisk said though DEP may have recommended upgrades in the past without using a water model, there is no double standard.
"It may have happened in the past, but it doesn't mean that we have to do it in all instances," he said.
said the Androscoggin hasn't been subject to the in-depth study the DEP
says is necessary because the department prioritizes studying rivers
that have slipped below their classifications, rather than those close
to moving up.
Michael Barden, director of environmental affairs
for the Maine Pulp and Paper Association, said he was indifferent on
the reclassification. Because the portion of the river is significantly
downstream of the Verso and NewPage mills, he said they wouldn't be
Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, and Rep. Peggy
Rotundo, D-Lewiston, testified before the Natural Resources Committee
earlier this week in favor of an amendment that would include upgrading
Rep. Brian Bolduc, D-Auburn, and Sen. Deb Simpson,
D-Auburn, serve on the committee. Bolduc said he supports upgrading the
river, while Simpson was gathering more information before making a
decision. The committee will take the bill up again next week.