August 04, 2020

Shipyard completing plan for disposal

KITTERY — Officials at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard have just about figured out how they will label and identify the hazardous waste from around the Northeast that they are proposing to store at the shipyard, a Maine environmental official said.

But strong environmental concerns remain as a public hearing, slated for October, approaches.

Members of the Seacoast Anti-Pollution League are opposing the plan out of concern that more toxic waste could be added to an area that already has been heavily polluted throughout its 200-year history.

Shipyard officials have applied to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for permission to accept hazardous materials from naval bases in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maine.

Officials hope to increase the amount of waste the shipyard may store, and increase the maximum storage time for waste from 90 days to 180 days.

The Navy contends the shipyard’s $5 million treatment facility built in 1996 is being used at only a fraction of its capacity, so it should be used for the consolidation of waste handling and disposal that would save money for taxpayers.

The facility at the shipyard on Seavey Island in the Piscataqua River is licensed for the processing and temporary storage of toxic waste such as paint, paint thinners and oil.

Meanwhile, the shipyard is listed by the Environmental Protection Agency as one of the most polluted sites in the nation. It is slated for a cleanup project estimated to cost more than $88 million.

Johanna Lyons, a board member of the Seacoast Anti-Pollution League, said trucks coming in and out of the shipyard will contain a “laundry list of hazardous materials” that could spill out.

“The roads are small coming into the shipyard,” she said.

The past environmental practices at the shipyard are no indication that the proposal will be unsafe, said Joan M. Jones, a hazardous waste specialist with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Jones is working with the shipyard to review the plan’s environmental impact and addressing concerns about the travel of vehicles loaded with toxic waste through local areas.

The shipyard’s plans for labeling and identifying toxic byproducts are mostly done, with “a little bit of tweaking left,” she said.

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