Ecological & Marine Impacts of Nordic's Factory

Updated: Oct 4

A Partial List of Potential Ecological Impacts from Nordic Aquafarms Proposed

Concentrated Aquatic Animal Production (CAAP) Facility

for Atlantic Salmon in Belfast, Maine


Nordic Aquafarms intends to release 7.7 million gallons of discharge daily, directly across from the Drinkwater Elementary School in Northport, in 34 feet of water at low tide. This discharge figure represents the best-case scenario and does not meet antidegradation requirements. It also depends on the entire system functioning flawlessly at all times and fails to consider system failures or the decrease in effectiveness of the filtration systems over time. There is no emergency backup system.

Nitrogen Pollution

  • Nordic failed to meet the State's Anti-Degradation requirements​. Their application's nitrogen levels are almost two times the quantity permitted under Maine state standards.

  • Nitrogen level numbers were changed after the closing of the hearing. Intervenor and public scrutiny were denied.

  • The coastline of Belfast Bay is already listed as an area "vulnerable” to harmful algae blooms*.

  • For the protection of eelgrass, the proposed discharge concentration would not meet the default antidegradation licensing criteria threshold.


Mercury Pollution

(Please see independent review here.)

Mercury deposits exist throughout the upper Penobscot and Belfast Bays due to Holtrachem’s spill 50 years ago. Nordic failed to:

  • Test for mercury along the dredge route for the intake and discharge pipes.

  • Evaluate effects of released mercury on marine organisms.

  • Perform sediment testing directly along the proposed pipeline in an area where mercury levels are highly variable.

  • Analyze mercury levels within depth strata.

  • Provide adequate samples.

Only two core samples for chemical analysis were submitted, and neither of these samples were located on the pipeline dredge route. The core samples tested by Nordic indicate that:

  • Mercury levels in the sediment to be disturbed are likely to be considerably higher than background levels.

  • Mercury levels vary considerably from one spot to another within the project area.


Water Circulation, Pollution Dispersal & Thermal Discharge

(Reference Circulation and Physical Processes in Penobscot Bay)

  • Nordic’s dispersal model was not based on on-site measurements and underestimated the risk of discharge to the local environment.

  • Existing data available for currents indicates that net flow is clockwise. Hence, 108 million gallons of resident discharge will be present in the discharge area at all times.

  • The lack of local hydrodynamic and meteorological data has made it impossible to accurately predict possible paths that the effluent might take.

  • Adequate current modeling and seasonal monitoring were not done for thermal discharges.

  • The plumes potential movement with time, tide, wind and wave was no modeled.



Toxins & Disease

(Reference Fish Disease and Aquaculture Facility Implications)

  • The thermally anomalous discharge waters will contain a wide variety of chemicals including pharmaceuticals/therapeutants, detergents/cleaners and other chemical agents.

  • The effluent/wastewater treatment cannot remove all of these chemicals.

  • Given that biological uptake and chemical reactions accelerate as the temperature of the aqueous environment rises, recombination of chemicals and bio-accumulate in plankton, benthos is possible.

  • Fish Feed contains numerous toxins, and constitutes a significant proportion of the waste.

  • Filters specified in the treatment system can get dirty quickly and if not kept properly can harbor pathogens.

  • No filter is stringent enough to filter out viral particles. (Once a pathogen enters a larger recirculating system it is extremely difficult to clear it. Usually, at a minimum, all the animals are slaughtered and the entire system is bleached.)

  • Ultraviolet (UV) systems can lose up to 40% of their initial efficiency in one year.

  • Not all viral strains respond well to UV disinfection.

  • Turbidity (i.e., lack of water clarity) in a waste stream negatively affects UV efficiency (Nordic plans to use surface water from the Little River).

  • Pathogens in eggs and parasites are also serious issues and extremely difficult to control.

  • Use of antimicrobials on bioreactor’s impacts efficiency.

  • Antimicrobials released into the environment cause an increase in antimicrobial resistance in pathogens of both animals and humans.


Fish, Endangered Species & Habitat Loss

(Reference Natural Resources Rebuttal)


The Penobscot River is one of the most promising rivers for wild Atlantic salmon restoration. The river has “orders of magnitude more habitat, production potential and climate resilient habitat” than anywhere else in the state. No studies were done on the potential impact on Atlantic salmon migrating to and from the river, or on endangered shortnose sturgeon. Salmon redds have also been located in the Passagassawakeag River, which flows into the Upper Penobscot Bay. It is historically a river rich in sturgeon. Also absent for the record is:

A discussion of the fact that Atlantic salmon who come into contact with Nordic discharge waters might be exposed to biological agents, such as fish-borne diseases, not removed by Nordic’s effluent/wastewater treatment technology.

  • The impact of the thermal anomaly and chemical profile of the discharge water as either a temporary or permanent project impact on existing species in the area, especially endangered Atlantic salmon and endangered shortnose sturgeon.

  • The impact of the complete loss of fishing bottom (approximately 149,000 square feet or 3.4 acres) from intake and outtake pipes on environment and lobstering.

  • The impact on the marine environment, fish and lobster. (Many fish species and shellfish are rebounding in the Gulf of Maine and the Penobscot Bay. Catches include: scrab, scallops, sea urchins, menhaden, periwinkles, mussels, clams, elvers, sea urchins and smelts, as well as recreational landings of several migratory species. Approximately 250 species of finfish call the Gulf of Maine home.)

*Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions Audio File, The Land-Sea Conjunction…what’s the function? Connecting coastal places, people and science. October 19, 2020 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNUEPrl-fZw



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