For quite some time now, we’ve had significant concerns about industrial stormwater pollution flowing into the Piscataqua River from the massive scrap metal facility operated by Grimmel Industries. As a result of these concerns – including toxic discharges containing PCBs and mercury – CLF successfully engaged the attention of EPA, which required Grimmel to clean up its act. As a result, Grimmel Industries were required to reconfigure its site and install pollution controls. (It also was required to pay civil penalties, and fund a restoration project in the Piscataqua River – more to come on that soon).
While monitoring data suggest that PCB and mercury discharges may have been reduced, unfortunately the site continues to violate EPA benchmark standards for a host of pollutants, including lead, copper and aluminum, to name a few. So, what does this mean? It means that while some progress has been made, the problems caused by this intense industrial operation on banks of the Piscataqua River have not been fully resolved.
That’s why we, along with some of our partners in the Rescue Great Bay coalition, have asked EPA to take further action. EPA’s enforcement action against Grimmel contemplated the possibility that the installation of further treatment technology would be necessary. Unfortunately, the data are clear that additional pollution controls are needed, and we’re asking EPA to act quickly, without further delay, to require them.
Anyone who knows the Seacoast region knows the Piscataqua River is a treasure. It adds enormously to what makes Seacoast communities like Portsmouth, Kittery, Newington, Eliot, New Castle, Dover, and so many others, such wonderful places. And it’s an essential link between Great Bay and the Gulf of Maine, providing a key pathway for migratory fish like rainbow smelt, river herring, and elvers, and for the stripers that so many fishermen covet (though, regrettably, the loss of eelgrass habitat in the river and throughout the estuary have, in my experience, made it a real challenge to find stripers where we used to fish for them).
So, despite early actions to clean up this site, more progress is needed. The Piscataqua River deserves no less. As Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper, I’m pleased to be working to restore and protect its health.
Keep up to date with my work as Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper by visiting my website and subscribing to Great Bay Currents.