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Clean Water Act Stormwater Permit Will Dramatically Reduce Pollution

June 28, 2022

Robby Lewis-Nash, Staff Writer
Friends of Casco Bay
(413) 695-3306
robbylewisnash [at] cascobay [dot] org

Clean Water Act Stormwater Permit Will Dramatically Reduce Pollution

As the Clean Water Act turns 50, much needed updates to a key stormwater permit in Maine will go into effect on July 1 to help reduce pollution and protect Maine waters from climate change 

South Portland, ME: New protections to reduce stormwater pollution flowing from the most urbanized communities in Maine will go into effect on July 1, under a revised version of a critical Clean Water Act permit: Maine’s General Permit for the Discharge of Stormwater from Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4). 

Maine’s revised MS4 permit affects numerous municipalities across the state, including communities in the greater Portland region, the Lewiston-Auburn area, and greater Bangor. The permit includes three major updates that are expected to significantly reduce stormwater pollution into Maine’s rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. Municipalities that fall under the permit will be required to:

  • Test stormwater outfalls to identify and eliminate sources of bacterial contamination
  • Take three actions to restore water quality and reduce pollution from their stormwater systems where they flow into impaired waters
  • Develop and adopt an ordinance to require new construction and redevelopment to use low impact development techniques that allow stormwater to flow more naturally and carry less pollution into stormwater systems.
Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca speaks to an audience about excess nitrogen and stormwater pollution.

These new terms were added to Maine’s MS4 permit after the Maine Department of Environmental Protection was ordered to include them by the Maine Board of Environmental Protection, which sided with Friends of Casco Bay in an appeal last summer. The addition of these terms marks the first time that Maine’s MS4 permit meets a 2003 federal requirement to include “clear, specific, and measurable” terms to reduce stormwater pollution.

Tackling stormwater pollution is long overdue in Maine, according to Ivy Frignoca, Casco Baykeeper with Friends of Casco Bay. “This is a time to celebrate,” said Frignoca. “This permit should have huge and visible results for our watershed, and what better year to have it take effect than 2022, the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act. Stormwater harms the Bay in so many ways because it carries diverse and varying loads of pollutants. As climate change brings more and stronger storms to Maine, the impacts of stormwater pollution will worsen without these changes.”

Stormwater pollution is related to climate change in two major ways. First, Meteorological data show Maine’s annual rainfall has increased six inches since 1895, and Maine’s average annual number of intense storms has increased, particularly since the mid-2000s. Both of these trends exacerbate stormwater pollution and are expected to continue with climate change. Second, stormwater pollution directly harms the health of aquatic ecosystems and fisheries, and healthy ecosystems are more resilient to climate change. 

Doug Roncarati is a Stormwater Program Coordinator for the City of Portland. “Everything we do on the landscape has the potential to create some kind of pollution,” said Roncarati. “The environment is very resilient, but throw too much at it over time and it will break down. We protect the environment and the long-term economic wellbeing of our communities by being thoughtful in how we manage our water resources. The MS4 permit is one way we can do that.”

Maine’s MS4 permit applies to “urbanized areas” within municipalities, as defined by the US Census. In the Casco Bay watershed, municipalities containing urbanized areas include Cape Elizabeth, Cumberland, Falmouth, Freeport, Gorham, Portland, Scarborough, South Portland, Westbrook, Windham, and Yarmouth. 

A map of MS4 program in the Casco Bay Watershed
A map of MS4 communities in the Casco Bay watershed, provided by the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership.

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More eyes on Casco Bay

For Immediate release

August 18, 2020

Contact: Will Everitt, Communications and Development Director: (207) 671-1315 (mobile), willeveritt [at] cascobay [dot] org 

More eyes on Casco Bay

The meaningful observations by hundreds of Volunteer Water Reporters are making a difference for the health of Casco Bay, especially during COVID-19.

Casco Bay encompasses 200 square miles of water, has more than 578 miles of shoreland from Cape Elizabeth to Phippsburg, and includes hundreds of islands. 

To help keep an eye on the health of the Bay, Friends of Casco Bay depends upon a network of more than 200 volunteer Water Reporters.

“Water Reporters have been invaluable during this pandemic,” says Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca, the lead advocate for Friends of Casco Bay. “These volunteers work on their own, practicing social-distancing, but are not socially distant from the waters that inspire them. We use their observational data to identify and work to eliminate sources of pollution to the Bay.” 

Using a specially designed app developed by Chesapeake Commons for Waterkeeper organizations, Friends of Casco Bay’s volunteers post observations of nitrogen pollution, nuisance algal blooms, sea level rise, wildlife sightings, and other changes they are seeing in and around the Bay. Volunteers in the network have collectively posted more than 1,400 observations of the Bay. 

Friends of Casco Bay is committed to responding to every post and to ensuring appropriate follow-up, including with state agencies, such as the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), as needed.

As Portland Harbormaster Kevin Battle explains, “The sooner we find out about a problem, the sooner it can be addressed. Water Reporters help communicate issues that we can look into and try to fix.”

Volunteer Jeff Walawender’s photo of an algal bloom along Pleasantdale Cove in South Portland is one of many important posts shared this summer. Tracking large algal blooms can help Friends identify sources of excess nitrogen. An overdose of nitrogen can trigger excessive growth of nuisance algae, which smothers animals that live in mudflats, reduces water clarity, lowers oxygen levels, and causes acidic conditions that make it harder for clams and mussels to build and maintain their shells.

See Jeff’s post here: https://www.waterreporter.org/community/reports/14419

In response to this bloom, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca met with South Portland officials and Portland Harbor Master Kevin Battle, talked with the Department of Environmental Protection staff, and collected water samples to identify potential sources of nitrogen that could have fertilized the excessive bloom.

“Thanks to Jeff, we had weekly photos tracking the development of the bloom and could see how much it grew after a major rainstorm caused large flows of stormwater to discharge to the Cove,” says Frignoca. “We then met with City officials and collected water samples from stormwater outfall pipes and tributaries  to help us better understand what may have caused this bloom.”

Fred Dillon, Stormwater Program Coordinator for the City of South Portland, is reassured by the large army of volunteers focusing on the Bay. “It’s great knowing that Friends of Casco Bay’s volunteers are helping keep an eye on things that affect our coastal waters,” he says.

And Jeff Walawender likes being able to help. “It feels good to be part of the solution,” he says. “I have this phone in my pocket all the time, and it’s great that in just a few seconds I can snap a photo that can make a difference. One of the greatest features of Water Reporter is that not only does it track events like nuisance algae blooms, but it can also be used to document positive changes such as the return of wildlife and vegetation. 

Friends of Casco Bay’s mission is to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. Our Water Reporter project is funded in part by our members, which include 2,400 households around the Bay, as well as by local businesses including L.L.Bean, Dale Rand Printing, and Sprague Energy, and foundations including Bonnell Cove Foundation, Davis Conservation Foundation, and Maine Community Foundation. 

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Casco Bay is heating up

Seem hotter than usual? Yes, indeed.

Our Continuous Monitoring Station has been collecting hourly data on the health of the Bay for more than four years.

Data from the station show that this summer has been the hottest one we have recorded since our “Cage of Science” has been in the water.

This graph compares water temperatures from 2016 to this month. The lavender-colored line represents the daily averages for this year.

Staff Scientist Mike Doan says “The data are concerning. This summer’s temperatures were on average the warmest we have seen at the station.”

You can find the most recent data for all the parameters we measure at our Cage of Science here.

In addition to collecting hourly data, for nearly 30 years, we have been spot-checking sites in the Bay. The temperature data from our three Sentinel Sites (see graph below for annual average, data collected May through October each year) show an upward trend as temperatures in Casco Bay have risen by 2.4° Fahrenheit [1.3° Celsius].

annual temperatures graph 2019

“Casco Bay is changing and changing quickly,” reports Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell. “That’s why we have launched the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund, which will help us put two more Continuous Monitoring Stations in the water, one near Portland and one near Harpswell, and operate all three stations for ten years.”

The $1.5 million Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund will be used over the next decade to understand the ways in which our waters are changing, while we engage the community in assessing and adapting to climate change. Friends of Casco Bay has raised 87% of its goal for the Fund. You can read more about the Fund, our 10-year plan, and make a secure donation here.

Woodard & Curran Foundation Awards National Grant to Friends of Casco Bay’s Climate Change Initiative

For immediate release, November 26, 2019

Contact Mary Cerullo, mcerullo [at] cascobay [dot] org/ (207) 799-8574

On November 7, 2019, Woodard & Curran Foundation presented Friends of Casco Bay’s Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell with a whopping gift: $100,000 over three years. The Foundation’s Giving Committee selected Friends of Casco Bay from a competitive pool of nearly 60 grant applicants from around the county. The grant of $100,000 will help support the South Portland-based nonprofit’s ten-year initiative to confront climate change through technology, monitoring, and community engagement.

Friends of Casco Bay will use the $100,000 as it establishes three high-tech continuous monitoring stations across the Bay to collect hourly data year-round and to engage the community in its work to advance policy and behavioral changes to address the impacts of climate change.

Woodard & Curran Foundation supports environmental nonprofits working to protect our water and environment. Barry Sheff, President of the Foundation, said, “The work Friends is doing to monitor the impact of climate change in Casco Bay is incredibly productive in driving education and policy-making within Maine and beyond. This is the first Impact Grant we’ve made in Maine, and on behalf of all of our donors, we are happy to support Friends of Casco Bay with this Impact Grant.”

As Woodard & Curran Foundation looks ahead to its 10th anniversary in 2020, Friends of Casco Bay will be celebrating its 30th year improving and protecting the environmental health of Casco Bay through science, community engagement, and advocating for improvements in water quality.


Friend of Casco Bay Award given to local advocates

Rick Frantz and Jennifer Fox, with Cathy Ramsdell, Friends of Casco Bay Executive Director. Photograph by Kevin Morris

Rick Frantz and Jennifer Fox are part of Portland’s vibrant waterfront scene. They own Andy’s Old Port Pub on Commercial Street, and they take the ferry home each night to Great Diamond Island. Casco Bay is literally their backyard.

On January 23, as more than 125 volunteers and supporters of Friends of Casco Bay watched, the waterfront business owners and Casco Bay islanders were recognized for their work on behalf of the Bay. Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell presented them with the Friend of Casco Bay Award at the organization’s Annual Members Meeting and Volunteer Appreciation Celebration.

Jennifer was formerly a fundraiser for nonprofits and Rick a graphic designer before they purchased the pub in 2007. Jennifer and Rick have made their tavern a popular gathering spot for waterfront business people and tourists, as well as island residents, many of whom contribute to the pub’s nightly music scene. They strongly support local harvesters and promote our regional seafood to customers from Maine and “away.”

They are a fitting choice for the Friend of Casco Bay Award because of the many ways in which they have fostered a sense of community among those who live, work, or play on Casco Bay, reminding friends, neighbors, and newcomers that we all have a responsibility for protecting the environmental health of the Bay.

The Friend of Casco Bay Award was created in 1992 to recognize those who have excelled in their commitment to protecting the Bay. The award is not given annually, but only when an individual or group is identified whose efforts have provided significant, long-term benefits to Casco Bay. Friends of Casco Bay, based in South Portland, is a conservation organization that uses science, advocacy, and community engagement to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay.

Volunteers do a great service to Casco Bay

Citizen Stewards received recognition for milestones in Water Quality Monitoring: John Todd, Michelle Brown, Debora Price, Sheila McDonald, Dick Stevens and Erno Bonebakker. Photograph by Kevin Morris

More than 125 volunteers and supporters of Friends of Casco Bay came to the Volunteer Appreciation Celebration on January 23to recognize those who give their time to monitor the water quality of the Bay, clean up shorelines, stencil storm drains, participate in community outreach events, and serve on its Board.

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At the event, ten Citizen Stewards received recognition for milestones in Water Quality Monitoring. Sarah Lyman, Community Engagement Coordinator for Friends of Casco Bay, recognized each of the honorees, remarking, “There is so much power and synergy in being able to connect data and connect people.”


Those recognized for their milestones in service:

Erno Bonebakker (25 Years)

Erno has been volunteering since 1993, the first full year of the Friends of Casco Bay’s water quality monitoring program. He and his family moved here from California in 1988, and within a week, Erno attended a meeting about the health of Casco Bay. His passion for Casco Bay has only deepened as he continues to explore, study, and care for it. He divides his time between Chebeague Island and Portland.


Dick Stevens (15 Years)

Dick Stevens has been active in the Gulf of Maine Ocean Racing Association and the Portland Yacht Club–winning a few trophies along the way. Sailing the coast and kayaking the lakes and rivers of Maine has given Dick a closer appreciation of the delicate nature of this rugged environment. This inspired him to volunteer as a Citizen Steward for Friends of Casco Bay.


Sheila McDonald and Debora Price (10 Years)

Sheila MacDonald and Debora Price have shared a sampling site at Mere Point Boat Launch in Brunswick, where they have found enthusiastic support whenever they explained why they were sampling the water quality of Casco Bay. Sheila serves as deputy director of the Maine State Museum. Debora is retired after teaching, owning a local real estate business, and co-founding an eldercare service, Neighbors, Inc.


Michelle Brown (5 Years)

Michelle has a professional background in wildlife management and natural resource conservation. Throughout her career, she has witnessed the power of volunteers and volunteering, so when she and her husband moved to Peaks Island, she was delighted to find out about the Friends of Casco Bay Citizen Stewards Program and how the data that volunteers collect provide important information about the Bay.


Craig Burnell (5 Years)

Craig always knew he wanted to become involved in the sciences, studying and learning about our environment. He works at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences as a Research Associate in the Bigelow Analytical Services facility. When not working, he is likely to be training for his next bike race, which will include a race across the country this summer.


John Todd (5 Years)

John and his wife Cathie have summered in Phippsburg since the 1960s. They finally moved there full time in 2005 after John retired from a career in international development. They love living on The Basin, where they enjoy swimming and kayaking, especially with their grandchildren.


Jan Flinterman (5 Years)

Jan has shared coverage of a water quality site at The Basin, a saltwater inlet on the New Meadows River in Phippsburg, with John Todd and Jim Sidel. Data collected by Citizen Stewards helped convince the Maine Legislature to upgrade this popular anchorage to the highest level of water quality protection, Class SA.


Rob Sellin and Natalie West (5 Years)

Rob and Natalie spent many years sailing the world before arriving in Maine in 2011 aboard S/V Wilhelm, their 44-foot steel cutter. They settled in South Portland and have been sampling water quality at the pier at Southern Maine Community College since 2012. They sail the coast of Maine every summer, exploring the extraordinary bays and offshore islands of our state, often accompanied by their adult children and their grandchildren.