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Lamoine faces a major decision with long-lasting consequences pertaining to a
referendum question on the ballot of the upcoming June 10 Primary Election regarding
changing the Building and Land Use Ordinance. This commentary is addressed to the
people of Lamoine who might have been incorrectly influenced by the shortsighted and
miss-guided phrase on the numerous “VOTE NO” signs along Lamoine’s roads these
A NO vote means continued destruction of Lamoine’s Rural and Agricultural Zone (most
of Lamoine) and the destruction of its sand and gravel aquifer, Lamoine’s sole-source
water supply. A YES vote in support of the referendum question, is a vote to “save and
protect” Lamoine from further destruction: “No new gravel pits”.
Think about the future of Lamoine. Growth will inevitably continue. Lamoine will need
the above-mentioned resources, that is, the rural-agricultural area and its concomitant
water supply. A YES vote will “save and protect” Lamoine and ensure a sustainable
future for Lamoine. A NO vote will protect the non-resident one percent, whose only
interest is to clear-strip Lamoine of its landscape.
As very, very temporary stewards of this small space, called Lamoine, we have a
deontological responsibility, a moral obligation, to “save and protect” Lamoine’s
common good for the benefit of our progeny. If Lamoine votes NO, one day it will regret
not having voted YES when it had the opportunity.
Now, speaking as a groundwater hydrologist-engineer, strip mining sand and gravel off
the top of an aquifer, removes the filtering effect of the sand and gravel protecting the
quality of the underlying water supply, and in the case of Lamoine, the sole-source water
supply, thus potentially exposing it to all sorts of pollution, and don’t tell me this will
never happen in Lamoine, no matter how careful one might be. The idea, expressed at the
public hearing of May 22 on the referendum question, that any potential pollution of
Lamoine’s aquifer would come from the north of Town, from as far away as Lucerne, or
that any local pollution would quickly be flushed out, is incorrect and ludicrous, since
most pollutants of concern, that is, hydrocarbons such as petroleum products and
solvents, are immiscible with water and either adhere to soil particles or get trapped in
“dead end” pores. These trapped hydrocarbons subsequently slowly biodegrade and very
slowly dissolve in water, causing problems for our water supply for many years to come.
A perfect cleanup is impossible. Another major negative effect of removing the sand and
gravel is that the storage capacity of the aquifer is totally being eliminated, because, in
applying the five-foot above the water table limit rule for extracting sand and gravel,
there isn’t a very serious attempt to determine the “seasonal” high water table. And, we
haven’t even discussed climate change and the effect it will have on the seasonal high
water table. If precipitation is expected to increase for the northeastern US as predicted
(many scientists are already reporting observable increases*), then all currently active
and planned gravel pits are in deep trouble. When I last visited MacQuinn’s gravel pit
north of Lamoine, I was literally driving on top of the water table! On that day, water was
visible between the pebbles at the bottom of the pit. Lack of space prevents me to go into
further detail within the framework of this forum.
*See for example the Commentary “On Global Warming” by W.Brutsaert, The Ellsworth
American, 12 September, 2013; or The American Geophysical Union’s position
statement on Global Warming and Climate Change: “Human Induced Climate Change
Requires Urgent Action”, August 2013.
Willem Brutsaert, Resident of Lamoine
Emeritus Professor of Hydraulics and Hydrology
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
The University of Maine