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PDA addresses port environmental concerns

Union Leader Correspondent

November 27. 2012 8:26PM

PORTSMOUTH - Residents both opposed and in support of the Market Street Terminal weighed in on efforts by the Pease Development Authority to address environmental issues at the New Hampshire port.

Fugitive dust and storm water runoff continue to be points of contention between area residents and the working waterfront.

About 45 people attended an informational meeting at Portsmouth City Hall on Monday night hosted by the Pease Development Authority, which oversees the port, to update residents on changes that have been happening in response to environmental concerns.

Attendees also received a history lesson on the Noble's Island area from former Portsmouth library director and historian Sherm Pridham.

"Noble's Island for a long period has been a stepping stone and a weigh station and has been developed industrially right up to the present," Pridham said.

The state purchased the property in 1962 and the first development of a marine terminal began in 1964.

Port director Geno Marconi also discussed proposed plans for development of the terminal to accommodate larger boats.

Marconi said over one million tons of scrap metal has been recycled in Portsmouth by Grimmel Industries, a base tenant at the port, which represents one million tons of scrap not ending up in a landfill.

According to the state's Division of Resources and Economic Development, in 2011 recycled scrap metal was the state's ninth leading export.

Attorney Robert Cheney discussed recent upgrades in storm water management at the facility.

He explained that water used to keep dust down must be collected and treated and not just discharged into the river.

Consolidation of the scrap piles at the southern end of the site will make it easier to collect the water, and to spray more water to keep dust down.

Berms were also installed to separate the north and south yards, three treatment units were installed and about $700,000 in drainage improvements were developed and are nearly complete that eliminate four outfalls and untreated overland flow to the Piscataqua River.

Tom Carroll is a business man at 500 Market Street across the street from the port and said he has complained to the PDA board about fugitive dust problems many, many times before.

"One of the statements was that this will eliminate the dust. I don't see that as going to happen. We've been told the dust would be eliminated before. It wasn't," Carroll said.

Bow Street business owner Robert Hassold told the PDA board they are "poisoning the people of Portsmouth" with the fugitive dust from the scrap piles.

"All of these years now since 2002 you are trying to eliminate a problem of arsenic, lead, PCBs and so forth. Why? Because of the scrap metal. Why do we have to have scrap metal in the center of Portsmouth? Why can't we bring in products that are not a problem like that," Hassold said.

Former Portsmouth resident and president of the Piscataqua Maritime Commission, Donald Coker, was one of few that spoke in support of the port's operations.

The PMC is responsible for bringing tall ships to the city every year and they often dock at the Market Street Terminal.

"Grimmel is in the business of recycling. The city of Portsmouth has mandatory recycling so how can we look at this and say on the whole it is something that's really bad. It is recycling on a grand scale," Coker said.

Commerical fishermen Erik Anderson also spoke in support of the port. He and Coker are both members of the Division of Ports and Harbors advisory committee.

Anderson said Marconi has tried for years to diversify operations at the port, but it is not as easy as it sounds.

During his presentation Marconi pointed out many examples of how the port has been used, including currently for assembly of the three liftspans of the Memorial Bridge.

Anderson said it would be a tragedy to turn the area into anything but a working port.

Portsmouth resident Joel Carp said the problem is he does not see a working port, just a handful of ships hauling away scrap metal.

"What we have now is basically a very static junkyard with about 10 ships moving in and out every year. I think we can do a lot better than that," Carp said.

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