While Maine’s sludge crisis first made headlines at the end of February, records recently obtained by the Bangor Daily News show the state knew weeks, if not months, earlier that sludge could pile up and threaten Maine’s waterways.

Read the full story about the behind-the-scenes showdown of Maine’s sludge crisis.

Feb. 1, 2023

State officials first raised concerns about sludge disposal at Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town

Wallace Giakas at the Bureau of General Services emailed Maine Department of Environmental Protection officials, including Commissioner Melanie Loyzim, to set a meeting for the near future to discuss sludge management.

Feb. 6, 2023

State officials met with representatives from Casella and Juniper Ridge

In notes from that meeting, Casella said it would need to reduce the amount of sludge Juniper Ridge took in by 2,500 tons a month. It blamed the enactment of LD 1639, which restricted the amount of bulky waste coming to the landfill that had been used to stabilize the sludge.
The company said in the meeting it will begin to “turn municipalities away.”

Feb. 7, 2023

Brewer told the DEP that, at the end of the month, Brewer would no longer be able to send its sludge to Juniper Ridge

Loyzim emailed Tom Abello in the governor’s office. In her email, Loyzim said the only short-term fix is “extending the timeframe for LD 1639,” but that long-term investment in a sludge composting facility is in the DEP’s near future. Loyzim told Abello that more legislators will likely hear from town governments and wastewater treatment plants in the “next week or so.”

Feb. 8, 2023

Emails to DEP officials

Loyzim emailed top DEP officials, saying Casella had told her and other state officials that, unless ReSource in Lewiston could send more demolition debris, Juniper Ridge would not be able to take as much sludge.

Feb. 14, 2023

Juniper Ridge closing alert

Orono Water Pollution Control Facility alerted the state that Juniper Ridge said it may soon close to sludge. A reply in this thread said wastewater treatment plant operators with issues should be sent to Hartland Landfill.

Feb. 15, 2023

Alternate plans

Karen Knuuti with the DEP sent an email, saying Casella wanted to process sludge at its Hawk Ridge composting facility in Unity, then truck the sludge up to New Brunswick, Canada.

Feb. 17, 2023

Casella files with DEP

Casella filed an emergency application with the DEP to handle some Maine sludge at its Hawk Ridge composting facility.

Feb. 21, 2023

Legislators field emails

Legislators began getting emails from constituents regarding notices of rate increases from Casella for sludge disposal due to LD 1639.
DEP got an email from Brewer about having difficulties finding alternative disposal sites.

Feb. 23, 2023

No more sludge intake

Newell Augur, a lobbyist for Casella, emailed Loyzim and Abello to say that Juniper Ridge “must turn away” all sludge deliveries because of a stability issue.
Amanda Smith from the Bangor Wastewater Treatment Plant emailed the DEP saying the city was “shut out” of the landfill with no sludge pickups.

Feb. 24, 2023

Emergency request approved

DEP approved, temporarily, Casella’s emergency request to store, unload and load sludge at Hawk Ridge. DEP officials began to seek locations outside of Maine to send sludge as Maine landfills “DON’T HAVE TO accept sludge,” according to an email Susan Miller sent to other DEP employees.

Feb. 28, 2023

DEP fields press inquiries

Loyzim emailed Casella for information. In that email, Loyzim asked the company what other materials could be used to bulk sludge, what was the necessary bulking ratio of those materials to the sludge, what were the estimated costs to obtain those materials and how much oversized bulky waste did Casella think it could get from ReSource if there were “no limitations” on how much could go to Juniper Ridge. Casella responded with a list.
– DEP approved modifying an emergency request from Casella to allow for a longer holding period at Casella’s Hawk Ridge facility in Unity from 36 to 72 hours.
– The first press inquiries landed with the DEP.

March 1, 2023

Time running out

News stories began to run detailing the sludge crisis. Susanne Miller of DEP sent out a staffwide email detailing efforts to mitigate the issue, saying “options and time are running out.”

March 2, 2023

Looking for alternatives

Loyzim sent an update to Sen. Stacy Brenner, D-Scarborough, and Abello. She said she had been directly emailing with multiple Casella reps to find alternative bulking agents and discuss other options.

March 6, 2023

BDN reporting

The Bangor Daily News reported that the DEP criticized Casella for rejecting proposed solutions to a looming crisis of contaminated sludge piling up at water treatment plants.

March 8, 2023

Marathon briefing

The legislative environmental committee held a marathon briefing with DEP and Casella to discuss the sludge debacle. Casella claimed the crisis had been averted.

March 9, 2023

City of Bangor criticism

The City of Bangor published an open letter criticizing Maine lawmakers and demanding they take action.

March 14, 2023

Infighting over solutions

The BDN published a story about Bangor infighting over sludge.

March 20, 2023

No new solutions

Area legislators met with the Bangor City Council and offered no solutions.

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Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is an investigative reporter at the Bangor Daily News. A graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he worked for Vermont Public Radio, The Burlington Free Press...