Public Lab Research note

Update on Stockton Harbor, Maine waste site: Media Coverage and heavy metals list

by ronhuber | June 26, 2014 18:24 26 Jun 18:24 | #10621 | #10621

6/16/14 Our effort continues to pressure state and federal agencies in carry out their required tests of the beach and intertidal flats of SW Stockton Harbor for heavy metals and acids

Below is a list of heavy metals associated with phosphogypsum wastes from identical abandoned fertilizer waste dumps. Are they within the scope of the sensor/ testing systems people have access to? I think so.

But first, things have been moving along quickly. Lines being drawn. See coverage over the last few days of this issue on TV news, a print paper and online-only news gatherer Pen Bay Pilot

Local online news group Pen Bay Pilot

Local television news WCSH/ WLBZ

Local newspaper Republican Journal- saved onto the Pen Bay Blog (Most comprehensive coverage.)

As one expects the company and its attendant state agency are hailing the quality of GAC's PRESENT DAY operations and avoiding the fact of the great hoard of pollutants eroding off the company shore,left there by past operators. But somewhat of the issue's importance got through. For the coast guard to evince respect for Maine DEP's see-no-evil attitude under controversial Commissioner Patricia Aho's reign is disappointing but I think with additional details we can get them on the right path.

HEAVY METALS A web search of federal cases concerning nearly identical abandoned superphosphate plants elsewhere and other information outlets, have shown phosphogypsum waste to typically be tainted with the following metals: chromium, cobalt, nickel, copper, zinc, arsenic, selenium, silver, cadmium, antimony, mercury, thallium, lead, uranium radium.

The latter two metals are known to be most significant in the wastes generated by fertilizer producers using phosphate ore from central Florida as feedstock. That location is aka "Bone Valley" We have records showing the actual shipments of phosphate between central Florida and Searsport in the early/mid 20th century. Even of a "Bone Valley" fertilizer company in Maine.

Of interest is that as a result central Florida-originated phosphogypsum is considered too heavily tainted with radium and uranium by the Florida and federal government to be re-used for almost any consumer exposed purpose. It must be kept in piles that are carefully fully capped. The waste erosion taking place in Stockton Harbor would be quite illegal in Florida. But the state of Maine HAS no phosophogypsum management law or regs. So we are appeal to the good graces of our federal agencies.


@donblair - is there a way we could use multiple riffle "crickets" to look at where point sources of heavy metal pollution are? Or some other way we might try to use really cheap sensors like the ones you're working on to collect useful data?

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I think those cheap riffle crickets would be great! Can we set a time and date to meet and test deploy one or more?

One assumes the 'seeps' where leachates rise to the surface would be logical locations; These are adjacent to where old reports describe different acid spills from railcar overfilling or spilling down the decades into the stockpiled waste There are also other sites along the near mile of company shore below the waste bluff where retired workers have described apparently illicit acid tank rinsings into a ditch heading directly to the beach.

A logistical challenge has emerged. The nervous company has invoked its property rights over part of the mudflats and threatens arrest for criminal trespass if we're "caught" taking mud samples from or applying sensors to "their" mud. They use video cameras and company security to enforce it. I'm sure this only applies to myself and perhaps one other person, but will talk with the local police chief to clarify this.

Yesterday during our weekly visit to the site we tested whether GAC would honor the Public Trust rights of "fishing fowling and navigation" on their beach by going mackerel jigging and minnow trapping there. They did - we'd informed them ahead of time and arrived brandishing fishing rods and a minnow trap. The onshore wind made the shallow water too opaque and gritty for the mummichogs and silversides - and mackerel couldn't see the lure, if any were about. Company security guy was content to site in his truck and watch

But they do have a guy who walks the shore daily to pick up some of the most egregious industrial junk that has eroded onto their beach that day, I suspect he would collect the crickets too! - unless they were disguised as lumps of stone or wood as the flat is riddled with those.

So cheap riffle crickets would be great! Can we set a time and date to meet and test deploy one or more crickets! The company owns only a limited portion of the cove; see image with company land bundaries. The state of Maine owns some and there's a third private shoreowner owner. The GAC wastes don't recognize real estate boundaries. gacshore_050113_aerial_cove_captions2.jpg




But if I'd pulled out a pH meter.....


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