The Maine Board of Environmental Protection will hear an appeal of a permit approval for a Brunswick train layover facility next week in what could be the final regulatory step for the controversial project connected to Amtrak’s Downeaster service.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection staff has recommended that the citizens board reject the attempt by the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition to stop construction of the 60,000-square-foot train holding and service facility. Work on the project has already begun.

In July, members of the neighborhood coalition appealed a DEP decision granting the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority the final permit it needed to proceed with the $12.4 million train shed. The coalition argued that the DEP violated department procedures, committed numerous errors when reaching its conclusions and granted a stormwater management permit that does not adequately protect the air, groundwater sources and local waterways.

In its response to the appeal filed with the Board of Environmental Protection, the DEP staff counters each of the neighborhood group’s complaints and recommends that the citizens board uphold the department’s decision.

Charlie Wallace, an environmental engineer who will argue the neighborhood coalition’s case next week, was not surprised by the staff position.

“They said the same thing when they issued the first (permit) in 2013,” Wallace said. “We had to take them to court and the court threw out the permit.”

Each side will be given 15 minutes to make its case before the Board of Environmental Protection, an independent body composed of seven gubernatorial appointees who consider appeals of DEP decisions, conduct major substantive rulemaking and review some license applications. The board is not expected to hold a public hearing on the issue.

The board’s verdict is unlikely to be the final chapter in the two-year-old permit process. If the board upholds the permit, the neighborhood coalition can file an appeal in Superior Court. If the coalition wins, the rail authority would have to work with the DEP to address the group’s concerns with the permit process.

The rail authority plans to build the more than 600-foot-long layover facility in a rail yard stretching from Church Road to Stanwood Street. The authority has said the facility is necessary to improve efficiency on the Downeaster line by enabling crews to store and service trains overnight in Brunswick, thereby eliminating the need to shuttle the empty train to and from Portland.

But members of the neighborhood coalition argue the facility would create noise and pollution and pose greater safety threats in a residential area of town.

Patricia Quinn, the rail authority’s executive director, declined to comment on the appeal, but said work began at the Brunswick site Oct. 16. Crews had prepared the site and were beginning to lay down the drainage system for a project that Quinn hopes will be complete by next August.

“They are moving right along, so we are pleased with that,” Quinn said.

Meanwhile, Wallace said neighbors and coalition members already have raised concerns that work crews and a third-party inspector are not doing enough to avoid pollution from contaminated soils that are being moved around and exposed on the site. Wallace said neighbors have made verbal complaints to the project manager, but have not yet filed any formal written complaints with the DEP.

The board may decide on the permit appeal during its Nov. 19 meeting, scheduled for 9 a.m. at the Elks Lodge in Augusta.


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