July 21, 2024
Image of dead fish in the river, with the headline "you stood up for the tenants bill of rights and it passed. will you stand up for our health and the Penobscot River?"
Bangor, Maine is facing a human health crisis if they can't figure out their biosolids disposal problem. Bangor is taking a knee and blaming the clock.

Bangor City Council approved the Bangor Tenants Rights Ordinance unanimously in a victory for renters across the city. You were a part of that victory.

Now there’s something else I’d like to bring to your attention that threatens every one of us.

Countdown to a Human Health Crisis

Our health and the Penobscot River are at grave risk if the City of Bangor does not find a reliable and consistent solution to safely dispose of the byproduct from the wastewater treatment process. Should they fail to do so, it will start polluting the Penobscot River with waste.

Wastewater Sludge and PFAS

Wastewater sludge, also known as biosolids, is a byproduct of the current treatment process used throughout the state of Maine.  These biosolids are laden with perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Aptly nicknamed “forever chemicals”, these substances never break down. When absorbed into the human body, PFAS are unable to be processed or expelled. As a result, PFAS have been linked to various cancers, developmental disabilities, reproductive effects, and more. Essentially, PFAS are toxic and poison us.

From Toilet to the Farm, and Back Again

PFAS laden wastewater sludge has been disposed of through a contract with Casella. One of the methods Casella handled the sludge was to sell it for application to agricultural land as fertilizer. Crops grown on this land absorb PFAS. Likewise, the animals which graze on that land absorb the PFAS and subsequently contaminate our food supply. Last year, the state of Maine took a huge step forward to protect all of us by prohibiting the spread of human waste on our land by passing LD 1911.

Sneaky, sneaky… all for a buck or two.

The second method Casella used to dispose of the wastewater sludge was to mix it with fresh bulky waste for deposit in a state-owned landfill. Despite established state law prohibiting out-of-state waste from being deposited in Maine landfills, Casella leveraged a loophole to ensure maximum profit. They brought in waste from Massachusetts to be processed at a recycling/salvaging center. Once the out-of-state waste was processed for anything salvageable, the remaining waste, now considered in-state waste, was legally dumped in the state-owned landfill.  Much to Casella’s frustration, LD 1911 was signed into law just after LD 1639, banning this practice, and closing their loophole exploit.

Taking a knee… and then blaming the clock….

The City of Bangor, guided by Casella’s talking points, now claims these two laws have created our emergency situation. The City claims they didn’t have enough time to prepare. The truth is they had plenty of time. A public hearing was held for LD 1639 on May 17, 2021. LD 1911 received a public hearing on January 23, 2022. Casella and municipalities like Bangor knew changes were coming down the line nearly 2 years ago and did not make necessary preparations.  

Both of these bills were signed into law in April 2022. Nearly a year later, the only remedy the City has offered, influenced by Casella, is to use the Penobscot River, and all of the residents of the Penobscot Valley, as hostages against the Maine State Legislature in an attempt to force them to undo these bills. The City prefers to align with the business of waste management, enable them to continue their poisonous ways, and extort the State, through ill-advised lawsuits, into repealing environmental and ecological life-saving policies.

Casella duped the City… But the City can’t dupe us.

The citizens of Bangor won’t fall for it. When the City found their backs against the wall due to their own negligence, they opted to trust and defend the interests of a business with everything to lose. Other municipalities reached out to the state for guidance and requested support from the funding allocated within LD 1911 and 1639 while Bangor waited until the 11th hour to urgently demand our legislators repeal the laws.  

We must stand together and demand answers.

I will be at Monday’s City Council Meeting @ 7:30 pm to demand answers. I want to know why city staff waited until AFTER this week’s infrastructure meeting to reach out to our state representatives. I want to know why the City Council didn’t prioritize working with the State until after this situation reached a crisis level. 

Will you join me? If you can’t attend the meeting, I urge all of you to email the Bangor City Council at councilors@bangormaine.gov, or call them at 207-992-4205. Ask these questions and share your concerns that they’re not addressing this issue.

Most importantly: Tell the City Council poisoning the Penobscot River, and subsequently all of us, is unacceptable.

Connect with me and stay in the loop.

If you have any questions about how to attend the City Council meeting and participate, please reach out to me at mike@bangormike.com.   To receive updates on this and learn about other issues you can hold the City accountable on, please email me, or sign up for my mailing list here:

Together for Bangor,
Michael Beck