2015-12-25 / Front Page

Fuel storage banned at Government Wharf

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

KENNEBUNKPORT — Fearing the environmental debacle, not to mention the cleanup cost, of any fuel spill at Government Wharf, selectmen voted unanimously Dec. 10 to ban fuel oil storage on site. The wharf, located off Ocean Avenue, is owned by the town, but maintained by the 35 member fishermen.

It has about 200 feet of berthing space and the fishermen use it for accessing moorings in the Kennebunk River. It boasts a winch, floats and a bait shed, but unlike the pier at Cape Porpoise, it offers no fuel for sale. Fuel oil has to be purchased at two marinas farther up the river, or elsewhere.

While many of the fishermen carry portable tanks in and out with them, owners of some of the larger commercial boats have, in recent years, taken to having fuel oil delivered to the wharf and left in 55-gallon drums stored there.

According to Town Manager Laurie Smith, the town’s insurance company has taken a dim view to that practice.

“Our concern is that the barrels are not secured,” she said. “If there was an issue with spillage, or if a flood tide came up, those could cause pollution in the river.”

According to Smith, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection does not regulate what it considers to be “portable fuel storage” like the drums at Government Wharf. However, that would not let the town off the hook if there were an accident.

“If there is a pollution incident, DEP will be down to enforce that,” Smith said. “DEP has said whoever owns the drums would be liable. However, if they do not have the resources to do the cleanup, the town owns the pier and we would be connected with that, and we do not have insurance that will cover us if we have pollution.”

Smith said most of the fishermen voluntarily removed their oil drums from the site, but “a couple of them” declined, citing financial hardship.

However, selectmen were unmoved, voting to ban the placement of any “unsupervised” fuel tank on the wharf property. In other words, a drum could be brought in, just not left overnight.

“It’s not environmentally responsible, so we need to stop it,” Selectman Stuart Barwise said.

“I know it’s not an easy situation with them,” Smith said. “We’re just trying to balance their needs with protecting the town. And the river, of course.”

Smith said town hall recognizes that some of the fishermen go through large amounts of fuel, and, for them, not being allowed to leave storage drums on site will be an inconvenience. However, the only other option would have been to require a certificate of liability that would include pollution coverage.

“And that would be an awful lot of money,” Selectman Allen Daggett said.

“Yup,” Smith agreed. “I mean, we can’t afford it ourselves.”

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