BDN interviews UMaine experts about proposed salmon farm in Belfast

The Bangor Daily News interviewed three University of Maine experts from the School of Marine Sciences and School of Earth and Climate Sciences about the possible environmental effects of what is expected to be one of the world’s largest indoor salmon farms proposed for construction near the Little River in Belfast. Damian Brady, an associate professor of marine sciences; Lawrence Mayer, a professor emeritus of oceanography; and Andrew Reeve, a professor of geological sciences, spoke to the BDN about Nordic Aquafarms’s $500 million facility, which it expects will “produce 72.7 million pounds of Atlantic salmon annually for consumers in the northeastern United States,” according to the article. Brady said all of the wastewater discharge from the farm, which would amount to 7.7 million gallons per day, will dissolve before entering Belfast Bay. Dissolved nutrients can alter the environment, but “the Maine Department of Environmental Protection has monitored the nutrient levels in water closely since the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972,” according to the BDN. “I don’t think anyone can say that a single discharger within Belfast Bay will degrade the water quality of Penobscot Bay writ large,” Brady said. “People hear 7 million gallons per day, and it sounds like a big number — and it is a big number … . But it’s small relative to the tidal exchange.” Some fear excavation in the intertidal zone to lay pipes for Belfast farm will dislodge mercury sediments on the ocean floor, but Mayer said mercury would more likely be found in quiet waters with fine-grained mud on the bottom than where the farm has been proposed. “The Little River is small, so I would doubt there is enough place for fine-grained mud to deposit,” he said. Nordic Aquafarms plans to use 1,205 gallons of freshwater per minute drawn from the Belfast Water District municipal supply, on-site groundwater wells and surface water from Belfast Reservoir No. 1, and a 55-acre containment pond near the mouth of the Little River to support its facility in Belfast, according to the article. Reeve independently reviewed one of the company’s modeling reports, and said it put forth a “good effort” to provide the public with reasonable data. He also recognized that the information has not quelled critics’ fears. “It’s almost like people decide what they want, and decide which model matches what they want, instead of doing it the other way,” he said. While state scientists monitor water quality and levels, Reeve said watershed or riverkeeper groups should also keep track of the data. “It’s in Nordic’s interest to have a sustainable water supply, but I’ll quote Ronald Reagan and say, ‘Trust, but verify,’” he said. “I would certainly have local community involvement, or somebody else looking over [the company’s] shoulder.”