April 05, 2020

DEP fines Lincoln mill $131,000 for violations

LINCOLN — Lincoln Pulp & Paper Co. will pay fines totaling $131,000 for more than 40 waste-water discharge violations that occurred during the last seven years.

As part of a consent agreement with the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Lincoln mill agreed to take corrective measures to stop the discharge violations.

“This is certainly a significant settlement, but I think the company is headed in the right direction and has made substantial improvements,” said Dennis Merrill, an official in the Water Resource Regulation Division of DEP’s Bureau of Land and Water Quality Control.

Dennis McComb, Lincoln Pulp and Paper Co.’s environmental and safety manager, says the company is pleased to resolve the discharge issues through the consent agreement.

“This agreement recognizes Lincoln’s process changes and other containment measures designed to ensure better environmental performance. We are looking to continue to build on a solid performance record into the future,” the mill’s environmental manager said.

“While most of the exceedences were minor and did not cause any significant impact, the larger incidents did result in some unacceptable environmental impact,” said McComb.

The Lincoln mill is licensed to discharge treated process wastes and cooling waters into the Penobscot River. Mattanawcook Stream, a small stream which serves as a water supply for the mill, flows through the mill complex and travels a short distance to its confluence with the Penobscot River.

Merrill says some of the violations were substantial, some were very small and some were technical violations. The discharge violations occurred between 1991 and 1997 and were self-reported by the mill.

The DEP official said the unlicensed discharge of untreated process waters generally occurred when process wastes overflowed or bypassed the mill’s sewer or treatment system so they didn’t get treated as they were supposed to and flowed into Mattanawcook Stream.

Merrill said the most common causes of those incidents involved failures of the mill’s pumping or screening facilities, debris from the wood-yard flume plugging sewers or equipment, high flows and power failures.

Merrill said two of the most serious violations occurred in the summer of 1993 when pump failures and electrical problems caused discharges of untreated process water and caused fish kills in Mattanawcook Stream.

He said several of the discharges of process wastes caused or had a significant potential to cause harm to the stream. Some spills resulted in small oil sheens on the stream and others caused PH levels in the stream to go above acceptable standards. In other cases, the volume and chemical composition presented a very high risk of causing adverse effects on aquatic life although none were observed, Merrill said, adding that there were no known impacts on the Penobscot River.

The DEP official said the mill has installed backup power and has eliminated the wood-yard flume, which had been a significant cause of waste water spills and bypasses.

The unlicensed discharges of cooling waters and sanitary wastes normally pumped to the town’s sewer system were mostly caused by leaking pipes, pump failures or plugged pipes. Merrill said these discharges generally were lower volumes and less heavily contaminated than process waters.

The company will work with the DEP on implementing additional inspection programs and environmental control measures as part of the agreement.

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