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Meeting On Land-Based Salmon Farm In Belfast Draws Dozens Of Critics And Backers

Robbie Feinberg
Maine Public
Opponents of Nordic Aquafarm's proposed land-based salmon farm in Belfast protest before a meeting Tuesday night.

Dozens of Belfast residents Tuesday night grilled the developers of a proposed large, land-based salmon farm that’s divided residents of the coastal town.The meeting was intended as a public information session, where officials with developer Nordic Aquafarms explained the specifics of the 54-acre project, which would produce up to 33,000 metric tons of salmon a year.

The company also supplied details of permit applications that it intends to file with the state’s Department of Environmental Protection next month on wastewater discharge, noise, odor, and other potential issues with the project.

Several local residents indicated they supported the proposal and felt it would benefit schools and bring needed jobs to the region. Belfast teacher Steve Hutchings said he thinks the project can both protect the environment and boost the local economy.

"I trust these folks. They’re good. I trust our city government. I trust our state government," Hutchings said. "We need jobs. We need opportunities for kids. We need this to be an international town. And it’s going to be."

Credit Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public
Maine Public
Dozens turned out in Belfast Tuesday night to get more information about Nordic Aquafarm's plans for a large, land-based salmon farm in the coastal Maine town.

Yet more than a dozen residents protested the project before the meeting. Among them was Jim Merkel, who said he’s concerned about potentially millions of gallons of water that the farm could release into Belfast Bay each day.

"We found out it’s a horrible thing for our community," Merkel said. "It’s an extractive industry. It takes millions of gallons of water a day, makes it dirty, pumps it into the bay."

The company says that its technology will substantially remove the vast majority of chemicals, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, from its waste water, and it will continually monitor the water to ensure safety.

A number of conservation groups, including the Atlantic Salmon Federation and the Conservation Law Foundation, support the proposal. However, the executive committee of Sierra Club Maine came out against the project earlier this week.

Nordic Aquafarms is expected to submit its permit applications to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection next month.

Originally published 6:28 a.m. March 27, 2019