This week, reporter Amanda Waldroupe outlines the debate over whether to leave West Hayden Island undeveloped as a wildlife habitat, or to let its owner—the Port—turn it into a big ol' parking lot for imported cars.
Last Thursday's meeting had a huge turnout from longshoremen and environmentalists alike... but it became apparent that the city council had made up their minds beforehand to approve the process that could lead to West Hayden's development.
Despite all that "nothing is final" talk, the Audubon Society's Bob Sallinger points out that the Port is already dumping contaminated dredge material from the Portland Harbor Superfund site onto the island's sandy grasslands. It got approval to do so from the Department of Environmental Quality. Sallinger says that in its application for the permit to dump the fill, "the Port said the land was going to be developed. The DEQ looks at what the land would be used for. If it's going to be a residential property, they won't let you dump contaminated materials there."
The dredging infill contains moderate levels of zinc, lead, and DDT, among other goodies. Sallinger says the concentration of these contaminants is enough to be toxic to the birds that inhabit the island—for the time being, at any rate.
"The Port knows damn well that the city has been debating this," says Sallinger. "This may preclude certain options down the road."