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September 10, 2018

Nordic Aquafarms heads to DEP with discharge application

Courtesy / SalmonBusiness
Courtesy / SalmonBusiness
Nordic Aquafarms CEO Erik Heim told Mainebiz the Norway-based company plans to submit an application to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for a Maine Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit in the next month or so for its land-based aquafarm for Atlantic salmon in Belfast

Nordic Aquafarms, which has proposed a large land-based aquaculture operation for Atlantic salmon in Belfast, is entering the next phase of a complex regulatory process.

According to its September 2018 newsletter, the firm plans to submit an application to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for a Maine Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit in the next month or so. In advance of that submission, the company will hold a required public information meeting for the application in Belfast. The meeting is anticipated to take place during the last week of September or the first week of October.

The project involves permitting at the federal, state and local levels, ranging from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the local planning board, CEO Erik Heim told Mainebiz in a related phone conversation last week.

"We'll continue to announce various hearings that go into the permitting process," he said.

He added, "As things look now, the project should be construction-ready by next summer, provided the permitting process doesn't take much longer."

The phased buildout involves first building a hatchery to grow salmon eggs into smolt, which are juvenile salmon.

"If the permitting goes according to the timeline, that could be in operation at the end of 2019," Heim continued. While the eggs are growing, construction can continue on the rest of first phase of the project. All together, Phase 1 construction will allow the firm to grow 15,000 tons of salmon, he said.

It takes 23 to 24 months for salmon to grow from eggs to market size, which is about 8 pounds, he said.

"It's a cold-water fish, so it's not fast-growing," he said.

It's expected that Phase 1, once completed, will employ about 60 people.

"As we move forward, we'll continue to build the organization step by step," he said. The facility will be built in two phases over the next few years, and total employment, upon completion, depends on how far into salmon processing the company goes, he said. The current estimate is about 100 people.

The upcoming public information meeting will be the first of several: one is needed for each of the major applications to Maine Department of Environmental Protection, according to the newsletter. As required by DEP regulations, the company will send notices to abutters and publish them locally, and will also send out alerts about the meeting to those who receive the company's newsletters.

At the meeting, the company will present a summary of the work done to bring the project to the permitting stage and what permits are required; and will provide written data detailing the planned residual discharge numbers, as well as the technologies used to achieve them. The meeting will provide an opportunity for people to ask questions about the MEPDES licensing process, timeline and discharge.

It's anticipated that the application will propose discharge of water slightly more than half a mile, offshore.

"Prior to discharge, the way we are treating the water will achieve a new standard for the fish farming industry in terms of the environmental profile per pound of fish produced," the newsletter.

Nordic Aquafarms said it's planning to invest in a high level of treatment because it recognizes "that our oceans are under tremendous pressure and that we have an obligation to be responsible stewards of our ocean resources, in Maine and around the world. Limiting the amounts of nutrients discharged, determining how they are diluted in the ocean and assessing environmental impacts, if any, have all been key priorities for Nordic Aquafarms in planning our facility and preparing this application."

Other milestones

In August, Nordic Aquafarms announced it had entered into an agreement with Belfast window manufacturer Mathews Brothers to purchase approximately 14 acres of land that adjoins the 40 acres the firm already has under contract with Belfast Water District as the site for its proposed farm.

According to the newsletter, the additional land will allow Nordic Aquafarms to establish optimal buffers between the facility and nearby trails, dam and reservoir, and to ensure the project is compliant with set-back requirements and fire codes.

The footprint of the facility itself and overall production capacity remain unchanged. The facility will be surrounded by green buffers. Where appropriate, mounds will be constructed and trees planted to minimize visual impact of the facility.

Nordic Aquafarms' new office, at 159 High St. in Belfast, is now open, and Heim and Director of Operations Marianne Naess plan to move to Maine at the end of September, the newsletter said.

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