Neighbors appeal Brunswick train barn's DEP permit

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BRUNSWICK — Members of a citizen’s group opposing the construction of an Amtrak layover facility were scheduled Thursday to appeal a key Maine Department of Environmental Protection permit for the project.

Charlie Wallace, a spokesman for the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition, said the stormwater permit granted to the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority should be voided because of “fundamental flaws” in the permitting process.

The DEP granted NNEPRA a stormwater permit in June, after holding a formal public hearing in March.

BWNC appealed in July, filing a 21-page complaint with the Board of Environmental Protection, the governor-appointed oversight board of the DEP.

Wallace summarized his group’s primary arguments in an interview Wednesday, saying flooding standards had not been met, no scientific examination of groundwater flow had been done, the wrong soil types in modelling and injection wells on site did not have proper permits.

“We are trying to prevent a disastrous destruction of an established residential neighborhood by a facility that cannot be justified by any need, at any size, at this location,” he said.

DEP staff maintain, however, that the permit is sound. “After reviewing the permitting record … the Department recommends that the Board deny the appellants’ request to reverse (DEP’s) decision,” staff wrote in a memo to the board.

DEP Executive Analyst Cynthia Bertocci outlined the appeal procedure to the parties in an email, explaining that each party would have 15 minutes to present their case, followed by board questioning and rebuttal.

The board was expected to deliberate and vote, Bertocci added Wednesday, unless they want DEP staff to “substantially modify” their recommended order. In that case, a new order would have to come back to a future meeting before there’s a final vote, she said.

Meanwhile, construction has begun at the site, with crews from Consigli Construction doing significant sitework in mid-October and November.

Several neighbors have complained to the Brunswick Town Council of excessive noise and vibrations. Wallace said there are excavated stockpiles of soil that are not covered to best management practices.

“This is an enforcement issue, but inherent in this whole process,”  he said. “First you’re supposed to do your permits properly, then you’re supposed to comply with them properly.”

Consigli is planning to hold a meeting onsite with neighbors to discuss their concerns at 9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 21.

By then, both sides should know the outcome of the appeal.

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

Work on the $12.4 million Downeaster layover facility in Brunswick began Oct. 15.

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.