Any local fish kill is considered serious

17 years ago

To the editor:
On June 29, 2007, Cavendish Agri-Services’ General Manager signed an “Administrative Consent Agreement and Enforcement Action” with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP). The agreement included a penalty of $11,170 for “unlicensed discharge” to Longfellow Brook in Caribou “causing or contributing to the failure of waters to attain the aquatic life standards of their class.”     The following excerpts of the agreement (a public document) tell the story. On Sept. 21, 2006, the Department of Inland Fish and Wildlife (DIFW) received a complaint from the public of dead fish observed in Longfellow Brook in Caribou. The DIFW contacted the MDEP the next day. The MDEP sent staff to investigate on Sept. 22, 2006.
“Small brook trout, approximately 50 in number, as well as invertebrates were found dead in the brook. The investigators proceeded upstream and determined that the stretch of stream with dead organisms extended to the location where an intermittent drainage was flowing into the brook. No evidence of dead organisms was found above this tributary and the water was also clearer above this tributary.
The flowing water in this intermittent drainage way was followed upstream to the Cavendish facility where it was determined to be originating from a hose left running with Cavendish personnel inside the facility. The area where washing had been taking place was under a large outdoor hopper that is used to load blended fertilizer into delivery vehicles. Fertilizer residues that appeared to have been deposited previously by flowing water were present on the gravel yard and the water flowing across the yard was coursing through these fertilizer residues. The water exiting the yard into the intermittent drainage way was visibly contaminated by the fertilizer residue.
Cavendish staff stated that on Sept. 21, 2006, they were conducting their annual end-of-season cleanup, which involves cleaning fertilizer residues out of their blending and delivery equipment and then sweeping and shoveling the material into bags for disposal.
During their cleanup, they were surprised by a large flow of water from upslope. This flow came across the area where there was an accumulation of fertilizer residues and carried it across the yard to the small drainage way. Cavendish stated that they discovered the flow of water that affected their operation was coming from Caribou Utilities District (CUD) employees flushing a hydrant upstream of the Cavendish facility. By the time Cavendish realized where the water was coming from, the hydrant was closed. No call was made by Cavendish to MDEP regarding the discharge of fertilizer residues to the local waters.”
In the formal agreement, Cavendish Agri-Services, Inc. agreed to modify its end-of-season procedures to include making contact with the CUD prior to initiation of clean-up activities, to conduct all indoor and outdoor fertilizer clean-up activities without the water wash-down, and re-contour the gravel yard to direct the runoff into a level, grassed area rather than to the intermittent drainage.
The public member who notified agencies of the fish kill remains anonymous. As a fellow public member, I would like to say thank you to him or her.

Steve Sutter
Presque Isle