Androscoggin River Facts

Compiled by the Androscoggin River Alliance, February 24, 2005


·        The River is still one of the dirtiest in the state.  It is far from cleaned up.  Gulf Island Pond, the 14-mile stretch of slow moving water above Lewiston/Auburn, fails to meet even the state’s lowest water quality standards.  According to DEP, there have been no significant improvements in water quality in the last decade in Gulf Island Pond.


·        The pollution problems in the River limit the number and type of fish that live there.   By law, cold water fish, like brook trout and landlocked salmon, should be able to live in Gulf Island Pond, but they can’t because it’s too polluted.  This is the crux of the so-called “dissolved oxygen” issue:  Fish and other aquatic creatures need oxygen to breathe, which is why it is important.  Clean water holds more oxygen than polluted water, so the stricter the oxygen standard, the cleaner the river must be. 


·        The mills on the River are by far the largest causes of the pollution. 

According to DEP they account for 83% of the oxygen depleting pollution entering the pond and 77% of the phosphorus pollution to the pond.  Phosphorus is a nutrient pollutant that causes algae blooms (green slime on the river) and depletes oxygen in the water.[1]  (see attached tables)  The phosphorus causes enormous algae blooms, rendering the water unusable for swimming.  The algae blooms and heavy BOD load also cause non-compliance with the state’s lowest dissolved oxygen (DO) standards, making the river unfit for cold water fish species. 


·        Sewage treatment plants upstream from L/A are concerned that the Makas bill, which will hold the Androscoggin and the St. Croix to the same dissolved oxygen standards as other rivers in the state, will cost them money if passed. This is untrue.  In the recently issued TMDL from the DEP, which describes the total allowable discharges into Gulf Island Pond,  the municipalities upstream of L/A have the right to discharge their full BOD capacity.   This bill will not result in higher costs for the treatment plants.


·        The mills say that the discharges from the L/A sewage treatment plant and CSOs are significantly harming the river, and that before L/A takes the position that the mills need to clean up, the city needs to get its own house in order.  This is comparing apples and oranges.  The CSO discharges from L/A are legal, permitted discharges that occur only after large rain events.  The city has a long-term plan to fix these discharges and they are on track to do so.  According to the DEP, the CSOs from the L/A area discharged 331,522,913 gallons of water in 2003, the latest year for which we have data.  In contrast, IP alone discharges 40.9 (McCubbin report, Table 4, Page 5) million gallons of wastewater per day, thus surpassing the total annual wastewater flow from the CSOs in 9 days.  Regarding the treatment plant, the L/A treatment plant is in compliance with standards as is the water downstream from the plant.  There are not dissolved oxygen violations downstream from L/A.  Furthermore, based on 1998-99 data averaged over 18 months from January 1998 through June 1999, obtained from the 1999 NPDES permit for the L/A treatment plant, the most recent permit available, the average discharge from the L/A treatment plant is 1,300 lbs per day of BOD.  This is just over 1/3 of the amount of BOD discharged by IP, which is 3,450 pounds of BOD per day (Source:  McCubbin Report, Table 4, page 5).  In other words, IP discharges 2.6 times the amount of organic pollution as the second largest metropolitan area in Maine!  Remember also that this is just IP and does not include Mead and Fraser.


·        The amount of BOD (a measure of organic pollution) discharged by the L/A CSOs is very, very small compared to the mills’ BOD discharges.  In terms of BOD, the CSOs’ annual discharge is 276,400 pounds, based on DEP figures.  In comparison, the IP mill at Jay discharges 3,450 pounds of BOD per day (McCubbin report, Table 4, Page 5).  Therefore, IP will surpass the total annual amount of BOD discharged by the CSOs in 80 days, and this is just IP.  The three pulp and paper mills as a whole on the Androscoggin discharge 16,480 lbs per day (McCubbin Report, Table 4, Page 5), which means they will surpass the total annual discharge of the L/A CSOs in just 16 days .  Note: this is based on an assumption of 100  mg/l BOD  L/A  CSO wastewater, which was communicated  to us by John True of DEP on February 24, 2005.


·        For years, the paper companies on the river have sought exemptions from environmental laws and standards to avoid making fundamental changes in their processes that would clean up the river.  As far back as the 1980’s, the legislature bowed to the will of the industries and exempted Gulf Island Pond from all water quality standards.  However, the US Environmental Protection Agency rejected this move as a violation of federal law.


·        Mill owners, such as International Paper, have the money to invest in upgrading their Androscoggin mills.  In the last year alone, IP spent $300 million on Eastern European operations, and over $100 million in South Carolina at one of its most efficient plants.  In addition, IP is considering a $1.2-$1.3 billion investment in South America.


·        The longevity of the mills, and mill jobs, will be enhanced by investment.  The 2004 “Indicators of Health” report, issued by the Governor’s Steering Committee on Natural Resource-Based Industries, states that:  “Increasing or maintaining capital investment in Maine’s pulp and paper mills would indicate industry-wide optimism and would reflect commitment to maintain or enhance the future competitiveness of Maine’s existing infrastructure.  To stay viable in today’s global marketplace, mills must increase productivity by investing in technology. Most Maine paper mills compete for investment dollars to improve their facilities with mills in other regions owned by their parent corporations. If a mill cannot attract capital investment, the mill eventually falls behind in competitiveness, and may eventually close.”


·        In the fall of 2003, Maine commissioned a study by a world-renowned paper industry expert that showed that the Androscoggin mills could invest in modern pollution prevention technology that would both lower manufacturing costs and allow them to meet water quality standards.  That study, known as the McCubbin Report, included the following statements: 


            There are many technologies and operating practice that have been in use for some time in profitable, operating mills which can potentially be used to reduce the discharges of pollutants that affect the Androscoggin River. These include personnel training, iimproved process control for phosphorus addition, correction of weaknesses in existing waste treatment systems, recovery of unplanned mill process losses, oxygen delignification and replacement of aeration tanks in the mills’ waste water treatment plants. 


             Mills such as Glatfelter in Spring Grove, PA, and several mills in Finland, that consistently exceed the industry average return in capital invested make extensive use of most of the technologies suggested herein as being useful for reducing phosphorus and BOD discharges, demonstrating that they are not unrealistic economically. These mills rely on a combination of appropriate manufacturing processes and effluent treatment to achieve low discharges cost effectively.”


Source: Maine DEP, Androscoggin River Modeling Report and Alternative Analysis, Paul Mitnick, June 2002, Page 3


[1] [1] Maine Department of Environmental Protection, “Androscoggin River Modeling Report and Alternative Analysis, Paul Mitnik, June 2002; page 3.

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