DEP gives Brunswick train barn final approval

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BRUNSWICK — The Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s approval this week of a storm-water license for a proposed Amtrak layover facility ends more than three years of debate – at least for now.

Opponents of the project said they are already working on an appeal to the Board of Environmental Protection, a citizen oversight board appointed by the governor.

Formal approval of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority’s storm-water permit application came Tuesday, following a draft approval on June 3.

Interested parties were allowed to submit comments on the draft until June 10.

Based on those comments, the DEP is requiring departmental review on two conditions of approval: that NNEPRA include an impermeable lining in its rooftop drip and foundation storm-water collection system, and a revised dewatering plan.

Neighborhood opponents, however, don’t think that the DEP has done enough to protect local interests.

“We thought we had a very strong case, and it’s very unusual to have an approval which lists 14 conditions,” said Bob Morrison, chairman of the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition. “We don’t really understand, because most decisions in these types of cases, they would (deny) because you haven’t completed the application … and yet, in our case, they approved it with 14 conditions.

“Who’s going to monitor that? Who’s going to appraise the public of the compliance? When do we get a shot to make sure the application of the conditions have been met?,” he asked. “I’m very disappointed about the decision and the approach that was taken.”

Morrison said he is still concerned that the facility will produce “noise, vibration, and carcinogenic fumes.”

But others in town welcomed the news.

“I want to go over and help dig the first shovel,” Town Councilor Kathy Wilson, who has been a vocal critic of the neighborhood opposition, said. “This is so valuable to our community … it’s a great boost in the short run, but even more important as the future comes to us.”

NNEPRA has said that housing trains in Brunswick overnight will allow it to run a third train daily between Brunswick and Boston.

“I think air quality will improve as people use more and more public transportation,” Wilson said.

“We appreciate the time and effort the DEP has put into this,” NNEPRA Executive Director Patricia Quinn said Wednesday.

She said the next step for NNEPRA will be to meet with its contractor, Massachusetts-based Consigli Construction, to review the storm-water license.

Quinn has said NNEPRA would not have to wait for the outcome of an appeal to begin construction.

“I’m very concerned (construction will start) – if they do, it’s a crapshoot,” Morrison said. “Suppose it goes against them and then it gets denied … that’s a misuse and mismanagement of public money.”

Alison Harris, a member of the rail advocacy group All Aboard Brunswick, said she understands the concerns of neighbors.

“If I had trains idling outside my house all the time, I’d be upset too,” she said.

But she said she believes the layover facility will help reduce idling by getting trains inside and allowing them to shut down.

“It didn’t have to be this long,” Harris said, “but it has been.”

But, she added, “until a shovel is in the ground, nothing is for sure.”

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.