The company building a natural gas pipeline through New Hampshire paid an $8,600 fine Wednesday for erosion control violations that released so much mud it significantly degraded the quality of Androscoggin River water.
The Portland Natural Gas Transmission System was cited for what its workers did in June in the town of Dummer, north of Berlin, while clearing a corridor to place the 24-inch pipe underground in steep woods and wetland between Route 110A and Dummer Hill Road.
In June and July, inspectors found multiple violations of environmental and wetland constructions:
Robert W. Varney, commissioner of the Department of Evironmental Services, ordered a halt to the work on July 8 and summoned company representatives to a meeting which was held in Concord on July 21.
"There were issues of communications between our environmental inspectors who were on the site and the contractors," said Harry T. Stewart, director of the DES Division of Water Resources. "The order set the stage for dialogue which has really improved the operation from our viewpoint."
PNGTS was fined a total of $5,500 for a series of six water-quality related violations and $3,100 for dumping fill in streams and wetlands outside the authorized construction right-of-way. The $8,600 goes into a special DES wetlands research and enforcement fund.
The company did not contest any portion of the administrative fines, although John Flumerfelt, the PNGTS spokesman, noted in an interview on Friday that the situation was "exacerbated to a great degree by the terrible (rainy) weather conditions at the beginning of construction in June".
Flumerfelt said the company has underscored the importance of abiding by the environmental protection regulations and fired workers who ignored the rules.
"Our contractors have had several terminations based on the failure of workers to comply with what is required out there. We are taking this very seriously," he said.
Flumerfelt also acknowledged the company no longer expects to complete construction by November 1 of the 292-mile pipeline that will run from the New Hampshire-Canada border at Pittsburg through Maine, then back across southern New Hamshire, connecting with an existing gas distribution network in Massachussets.
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