Category Archives: May 23

‘Recycling is still working for us’

St. George Solid Waste and Recycling Committee members (l to r) Ray Emerson, Jan Limmen, Ann Marie (Otty) Merrill, Deborah Wheelock, Wendy Carr (chair), Kathryn Johanson (not present, Jane Bracy). The Select Board liaison to the committee is Tammy Willey.

In January 2018, when China enacted its “National Sword” policy banning the import of recycled plastics and other materials, the U.S.’s primary market for recyclables was shut down. Up until then China’s recycling processors had been handling nearly half of the world’s recyclable waste (which included 56 percent of U.S. recyclables along with another 32 percent of U.S. recyclables sent to China via Hong Kong). As a result of the ban, more plastics in the U.S. are now ending up in landfills, incinerators or by the side of the road. As newspaper and magazine headlines report the decline or halting of U.S. community recycling programs, the primary message people may be getting is that recycling is no longer a viable way to minimize solid waste. That has committee chair Wendy Carr and the rest of the St. George Solid Waste and Recycling Committee worried.

“Right now people are reading all these negative articles about recycling and thinking, ‘Why should I recycle?’” Carr says. “Each town has to look at its own situation, but for St. George it is still an important part of our waste management strategy—recycling is still working for us.”

The chief reason this is so, says Carr, is “cost avoidance.”

Crossroads Landfill in Norridgewock, Me., in 2016. This valley is now filled in with trash.

“When we don’t ship plastics and other materials to recycling facilities, we have to pay the transportation fees and tipping fees to deposit that refuse in the Crossroads Landfill in Norridgewock, northwest of Augusta,” Carr explains. “Because of today’s bad markets for recyclables we aren’t always making much or any money on the materials we send out for repurposing, but we are still saving money by cost avoidance because we are not paying landfill charges.”

Avoiding having trash go into a landfill is key, Carr believes, not only because of the costs involved, but also because of the environmental impact. “From my point of view, landfills always fail, they have a life span, and even though technology is getting better and better about encapsulating waste, the idea that on our planet the waste that we are generating is entombed somewhere, we’re using up our space and eventually those landfills leak the chemicals from that waste.”

Innovative technologies for dealing with trash such as anaerobic digesters where bacteria are used to break down the waste may be able to deliver better environmental outcomes, but for St. George the difficulty is both volume and transportation. “We are treated like an island,” Carr notes. “Innovative trash or waste disposal schemes don’t want us because of the transportation costs. They have something they call route fulfillment and all that means is that if they are going from A to B, they want to stop at a number of towns. But when you go down the peninsula there’s nowhere to stop except for us.” If St. George produced a greater volume of solid waste the transportation cost might be worth the trip, but not otherwise.

The upshot is that for St. George, recycling is the only way to get the cost and environmental benefit of reducing the amount of solid waste the town sends to the Norridgewock landfill. The cost-avoidance benefit alone, Carr estimates based on 2018 numbers, is about $117,000 (1,697.24 tons were landfilled and 1,169.287 tons were recycled). And despite the depressing headlines, there are still markets for recycling. St. George’s agent for finding those markets is the Main Resource Recovery Association. Carr admits that a problem in getting top dollar for the town’s relatively clean, hand-sorted material, however, is that St. George often doesn’t have as much material as a buyer would like. Carr takes the example of PET #2 plastic. “Ours is sorted and clean, but we can only provide so much, say two bales. So if the customer wants six bales, they’ll get the rest from a single-stream source, which is not so clean because in single-stream everything is thrown into one big bucket and stuff gets contaminated. So our clean material also gets contaminated and we get a lower price.”

But Carr sees signs that better markets for recycling will emerge. One of these involves Chinese companies affected by the 2018 “National Sword” ban. That ban was aimed at halting the import of “dirty” materials from single-stream sources that were overwhelming Chinese processing facilities. Several of these companies have now announced plans to open new processing plants in the U.S., notably in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. Partnering with local authorities, they plan to produce clean recycled plastic suitable for manufacturing purposes back in China or elsewhere. In addition, there are signs that U.S. recycling operations have also begun expanding their ability to produce cleaner materials for repurposing.

While she says St. George residents are doing very well at recycling, Carr would also like to see the recycling rate in St. George increase. “The idea is to just give it a try—start with just one thing, like newspapers or milk jugs, and see how that goes. Recycling takes a little thought, a little room. But for us in St. George, it makes a difference. If people care about nothing else, it can at least lower their taxes.” —JW

PHOTOS: Top, Julie Wortman, bottom, Wendy Carr

The creation of Ponderosa Pond

This is a place in St. George that people drive by on a regular basis but know little about. To some of us long-time residents we still remember when this was a marshy area similar to the area on the easterly side of Turkey Cove Road across from the entrance to Otis Point Road—an area that would flood during heavy rains, but was home to a meandering stream the rest of the time.

This pond was created in the fall of 1963 by the Town of St. George when it rebuilt the section of road at the head of Watts Cove at a cost of $3,000. A 1965 news article tells us that prior to 1963, when the culvert under the road was down at the level of the brook draining out of the marsh area, this section of road was so dangerous that school buses were not allowed to cross over it.

The idea of flooding the marsh came from Harold Watts. He was a dairy farmer who lived just up the road and had a great interest in preserving things of nature. The 10-acre marsh was part of a larger piece of land owned at the time by Alfred Leppanen, who joined in the idea of creating this beautiful spot. So in 1963 the town built up the road, effectively damming the brook to create the pond. The new road culvert was placed at a higher level to drain the excess water from the new pond. Rebuilding the base of the road made it much safer.

Harold Watts passed away in 1964, a year after the project was completed, and in May of 1965 the area was dedicated to his memory. The weekend of the dedication the local Boy Scout troop planted on the site a grove of red pines that were donated by the State Forestry Department. On the same day more than 1,500 young trout were put into the lake. The plaque to Watts’ memory was also placed on the site. —John Falla

PHOTOS: Top, Dawn Leppanen Gauthier, bottom, John Falla


Community walk to support community nursing on June 8

The friends and board members of the Rockland District Nursing Association (RDNA) invite members of the St. George community to join in a “Community Walk for Community Nursing” on Saturday, June 8. All proceeds from the walk go to support the RDNA and, in turn, to benefit many residents in St. George who depend on this non-profit organization’s vital visiting home care.

On the day of the walk there will be a sign-in at 9:30am at the parking lot of the Baptist Church on Route 131 in Port Clyde, with a bake sale at the same location from 9am-11am.  The walk and bake sale are all by donation, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the RDNA. The 2-mile walk will follow a route to the beautiful Marshall Point Lighthouse and back.

The walk, which will be held rain or shine, is a casual event—bring a friend and walk at your own pace, or join a group of those walking.  There are no speeches or mandatory departure and return times.

—Meg Sawyer, Treasurer, RDNA (FMI call Meg at 372-6489 or contact the RDNA at 594-4522 or

St. George post celebrates American Legion’s 100th anniversary

Thornton Batty, Commander of the Kinney-Melquist Post 34 honors World War II veteran Edgar M. Post. This year the American flag at the St. George ball field flies in his honor.

The St. George American Legion Kinney-Melquist Post 34 is celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the American Legion along with the family of posts worldwide. To celebrate the 100th Anniversary, the local American Legion honors its past accomplishments and renews the post’s resolve to serve the community.

Post 34 supports the St. George community in many ways such as providing awareness of national traditions and flag etiquette to the local Boy and Girl Scouts, conducting a Veterans Day ceremony at the school and hosting the annual Town Memorial Day parade. During the Memorial Day ceremony students recite historical messages appropriate for the Day and the school band provides patriotic music.

Each year Post 34 recognizes a veteran by flying the American flag at the St. George ball field for a year in his or her honor. This year the flag flies in honor of Edgar M. Post, a World War II veteran.  —Dave Percival

PHOTO: Dave Percival

Got questions about internet service in St. George?

Join the Select Board, the Connect St. George Group of the Community Development Corporation, and State Rep. Ann Matlack on Thursday, May 30 at 7pm in the Fire House meeting room at the Town Office for a community-wide conversation about what universal, reliable, high-speed internet could mean for you and our community. Topics will include the status of internet access in St. George, what reliable high-speed internet could mean for our community and what the Town’s vision should be for the future of internet connectivity here.

This meeting will shape a broader connectivity conversation at a follow-up public meeting with Charter Communications (Spectrum) on June 18 at 7pm. —Susan Bates

Rule #34: Enjoy the little things

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Wood Frog eggs

My family recently gave me one of those clip-on, macro lenses that attaches to my phone (cellular not terrestrial). It allows close-up photo documentation and was a birthday present. I don’t normally gush over gear, but this one was an instant game changer. “New tools bring new opportunities,” or is it “with new tools comes great opportunities?” Whatever I may mean—the timing of the gift couldn’t have been better. Not only was it for my birthday, but the vernal pools on the peninsula are bubbling with amphibian egg masses and life in early spring! I know—just when you thought life couldn’t get any better!

From the 15 or so vernal pools I have had the pleasure to visit in St. George, Wood Frog and Spotted Salamander egg masses are the amphibian eggs most likely to be present.

Wood frogs lay sizable egg masses (up to 1,500 eggs) soon after arriving at the pools (this year that was early-mid April). The eggs usually hatch within three weeks. The egg masses, shells, and yolk are clear, so observing the Wood Frog embryos develop prior to hatching,—as odd as that may sound—is easy.

Wood Frogs unfurling in eggs

Over a two-week period, repeat visits to a couple of local pools took the frog embryos from rolled-up specks, to unfurled blobs and eventually to gilled tadpoles and hatching! Photos taken with the new tool added to the lessons and appreciation of vernal pool life—even from the comforts of home! In the end, May 13th was the Wood Frog hatching day at Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s Bamford Preserve on Long Cove, and to be at a vernal pool when thousands of tadpoles were erupting is pretty cool and exciting. I was there to welcome the tadpoles to freedom, catch some views of their first attempts at swimming and to snag a photo or two!

While vernal pools are often “turnaround zones” for early spring strolls, an entire walk can be thought of as the “destination.” And there are always numerous distractions by which to get side-tracked along the way.

Rodent mandible in an owl pellet

Owl pellets are distractions I am happy to take a closer look at, and there is no shortage of pellets to be found in the woods of mid-coast Maine. These pellets consist of non-digestables (fur and bones) from an owl’s recent meal, wrapped up tight and coughed up while the owl is perched. Earlier this month a Great-horned Owl was kind enough to regurgitate a pellet right along the path I take to the vernal pool down the road. With each inspection, the pellet showed sign of breaking down as the fur was being washed away, exposing a rodent skull and bones within. As if that weren’t cool enough, keeping tabs on the bones turned up three rodent lower mandibles, which meant that the owl caught three rodents before coughing up this pellet. Must have been a great hunting night!

Carrion Beetle

While on a visit to the vernal pools by the Town Forest Loop trail I came across a pile of coyote scat right in middle of the trail, classic coyote style. Coyote scat is a common sight on the peninsula for sure, but this scat was the first I’ve found this year that had some movement in it (pun indeed!). A small, but strong contingent of Carrion Beetles (Oiceoptoma novaboracense) was finding nourishment from the waste of a product the coyote had passed on (pun again!). These beetles will often scurry or burrow when approached, but either this “scat was so good” or this particular group was in a “scat coma” as they just stayed in position, outwardly showing no interest in my large, looming presence. I used the new tool to gain a close-up Carrion Beetle perspective, while limiting my close-up time and potential impact on the beetles. They have a crappy, but important job to do, and so I left them to their own.

I have a friend who leaves his camera at home on purpose at times. Apparently, he feels that his pursuit of the perfect shot can take away from his observing of wildlife. I have never felt this. Binoculars, spotting scopes, cameras, field guides—they are all tools meant to enhance an observation, expand an understanding, and continue a lesson. The simple act of taking a close-up photo requires slowing down and taking a closer look. That, right there, is a lesson unto itself every time. Enjoy the little things!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

Community garden beginnings

Martinsville resident Dale Pierson and his team of volunteers began construction of the new community gardens located at Jackson Memorial Library on May 16. Eight plots will be built this year. For more information about signing up for an allotment, contact the Community Development Corporation at 372-2193 or email

PHOTO: Betsy Welch

Learning the art of persuasion

Third-grade students show off their t-shirt design.

St. George School third-grade students have spent the last six weeks studying the life of an Atlantic Puffin, learning about its life cycle, habitat, breeding grounds, and challenges this special sea bird faces. The students studied about Project Puffin and scientist Dr. Steve Kress, who was responsible for the reintroduction of Atlantic Puffin to Eastern Egg Rock, a small island off the coast of St. George. They also looked at data about the puffin population, and sea-surface temperatures in the Gulf of Maine. As a culminating project, students designed a t-shirt to sell, with all the proceeds going to support Project Puffin. They wrote persuasive pieces to convince an audience to attend and buy our t-shirts. They read these pieces aloud to the second-grade class, and the essays below were the winners.
—Meghan Elwell, Teacher

“I’m just a kid and I want to make a difference”

First of all you should buy our t-shirts on the Celebration of Learning in room 25. IF you want to save a puffin’s life or make them not extinct.

If you don’t believe me, here are some of the challenges puffins face: black-backed gulls, but the most important one is “pollution.” All that can harm a puffin and that’s why you should come to the Celebration of Learning and buy a t-shirt.

Food shortages are also a problem for puffins. One time a puffin expert came to my classroom and said that a pufflin eats about 25 fish a day. If you throw trash in the water that is like 25 fish gone in the ocean and if that keeps happening, then there will be no fish in the water for puffins to eat. Also pollution can make warm oceans and fish like cold water so then the fish swim away to cold water where the puffins can’t swim. That’s another reason to buy our t-shirts at the Celebration of Learning.

Take it this way, most people around the globe have been in the water, but some puffins haven’t because they are dying. I’m just a kid and I want to make a difference so that puffins can go in water like us and be safe too. Lastly I’d love for you to come to the Celebration of Learning to buy a t-shirt only for $15 in room 25. —Kaylee Tolman

“Do you really want all the puffins inthe world to go away?”

You should buy our t-shirt because this puffin species is almost extinct. Do you really want to have puffins in the world? There are so many challenges that a puffin goes through a day like trash, plastic, black-backed gulls and oil spills.

Oil spills are a big problem too. A fact about an oil spill is if a puffin runs into one it gets all oily. Then if it stays out at sea for a long time it can die. That will not be good. I think that you should buy our t-shirt because do you really want all the puffins in the world to go away? Then there won’t be anymore.

You can buy our t-shirt at St. George School in Mrs. Elwell’s third-grade class June 13 1:30pm, $15 dollars a t-shirt, room 25. —Eva Hooper

“…your money could help save an entire species, puffins”

You should buy our t-shirts because your money could help save an entire species, puffins. There are many challenges this species faces, such as pollution, predators, and global warming.
Many puffins run into pollution (for example, trash) when they are out at sea. If you buy our t-shirts, professionals could try to help solve that problem. Pollution is also a problem for other species. Experts could also make “No Littering” a law in all states.

Predators such as gulls are also a problem. Our visiting scientist Steve Kress said, “Gulls will eat a puffin’s egg if they can find them, as well as puffin chicks and adults.” If you buy our t-shirts, Project Puffin could help eliminate gulls from Eastern Egg Rock. Gulls can eat a lot of things that puffins can’t such as garbage and factory wastes. The money from the t-shirts could help because factory wastes could go somewhere else.

You should also think of your own experiences. You all know the safe, secure, feeling of home. IF we keep harming our oceans, puffins and other seabirds won’t have a place to call home. That is why you should buy our $15 t-shirts in room 25 at the Celebration of Learning. We take cash and checks. I hope you consider buying our t-shirts. Thank you. —Miles Bartke