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Paper mill appeals DES findings on water

BENNINGTON — Monadnock Paper Mills, Inc. is appealing conditions from the Department of Environmental Services’ final state water quality certificate that was issued in January. The state water quality certificate requires the paper mill to conduct numerous studies on the Contoocook River, home to the paper plant’s four hydroelectric power generating stations.

“We felt some restrictions [in the certificate] are beyond the scope of the authority of the DES,” said Vice President of Manufacturing Mark Lombardi during an interview on Monday. “We felt that there were some cost issues, some open-ended studies that [DES] was asking us to finance ourselves.”

This sentiment is echoed in the paper mills’ official response document to the DES, published on Jan. 31, which reads, “MPM’s position is that the terms and conditions of the water quality certificate include requirements beyond those that are necessary to meet the fundamental purposes of the clean water act and state regulations.”

Paper mill representatives met with DES on April 2 to “compromise and clarify” the conditions of the certificate, according to Lombardi.

The water quality certificate is needed for an organization to obtain a 401 water quality certification from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The purpose of the water quality certificate is to protect surface water quality and uses by ensuring compliance with state surface water standards, according to the DES website.

Water quality certifications typically include enforceable conditions, including monitoring requirements, to ensure compliance with surface water quality standards. The certification is required for the paper mill to operate its four hydroelectric power generating stations.

A water quality certification is good for 30 years. The last one that the paper mill was granted is dated Oct. 28, 1983, according to Lombardi. That certification will expire this October.

The hydroelectric power generating stations have been owned and used by the paper mill for nearly 100 years.

“The DES has been good to work with so far. It really is all about clarifying the language used in the certificate,” said Lombardi.

The paper mill and DES have a meeting scheduled for July 9, with a pre-hearing conference for the appeal scheduled for Sept. 10.

Ledger-Transcript requests to speak directly with DES were not answered as of press time Monday.

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