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Category: Stormwater Pollution

Harpswell sunset. Photo by Stephen G. Hobson “To be hopeful means to be uncertain about the future, to be tender toward possibilities, to be dedicated to change all the way down to the bottom of your heart.” – Rebecca Solnit

10 Ways to Get Ready for Earth Day

Earth Day is on Monday, April 22, 2024. Here at Friends of Casco Bay, while every day is an opportunity to advocate for and protect clean waters and healthy communities, Earth Day is our reminder that collectively we can take positive actions to help nature and inspire hope.

Harpswell sunset. Photo by Stephen G. Hobson “To be hopeful means to be uncertain about the future, to be tender toward possibilities, to be dedicated to change all the way down to the bottom of your heart.” – Rebecca Solnit

In this spirit, here are 10 ways to show up, aid, and honor this one precious Earth we share.


1) Be the eyes of the Bay.

Water Reporter Susan Woodman enjoys photographing the eelgrass at Willard Beach in South Portland. “It feels as though you’re contributing something and looking after the beach.”
Water Reporter Susan Woodman enjoys photographing the eelgrass at Willard Beach in South Portland. “It feels as though you’re contributing something and looking after the beach.”

Become a Water Reporter. Volunteer Water Reporters help us act as the eyes of Casco Bay. Water Reporters use their smartphones to photograph algal blooms, sea level rise, pollution, eelgrass, wildlife sightings, and other notable observations from on and around the Bay. Their photos are shared with our staff through the Water Reporter app, creating an archive of observational data on how the Bay may be changing over time. Sign up here.


2). Learn about superhero seagrasses.

Attend our upcoming Coffee with the Casco Baykeeper: Eelgrass happening online Thursday, April 25, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. Friends of Casco Bay is part of a two-year eelgrass pilot project to monitor eelgrass meadows, study why they are shrinking, and, ultimately, test restoration solutions. Register to attend and learn more about this vital marine plant and the pilot project.


3) Find out what you can do about stormwater pollution by watching our Coffee with the Casco Baykeeper video on stormwater. Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca and Community Organizer Sara Freshley have a conversation over coffee that focuses on the increasing impact stormwater has on Casco Bay and what Friends of Casco Bay is doing to help address this issue (sneak peek: it’s a lot!). They also share upcoming opportunities for you to use your voice to advocate for clean water.

 


4) Educate yourself about “forever chemicals” by watching our Coffee with the Casco Baykeeper video on PFAS in Casco Bay. PFAS are known as forever chemicals because they break down slowly in the environment. They are associated with serious health issues and can be found in many common products such as fast food packaging, nonstick pans, candy wrappers, and firefighting foam.

Coffee with Casco Baykeeper PFAS YouTube Thumbnail

Ivy Frignoca and Community Organizer Sara Freshley have a casual conversation about our partnership with Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences to sample for PFAS in Casco Bay. Ivy shares insights from what we learned during our first year of PFAS monitoring in Casco Bay and we also talk about what’s next in 2024.


5) Clean up our watershed. Put your gloves on, grab a bag, and help clean up the Casco Bay watershed.

Friends of Casco Bay volunteers, Andrea Martin, Steffy Amondi and Trish Peterson collect and log the different types of trash collected along the shore of Bug Light Park in South Portland.

Here are four cleanup events happening soon:

  • Coastal Cleanup hosted by Mere Point Oyster Co. and Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust in Brunswick on Saturday, April 20.

  • South Portland Annual Cleanup hosted by South Portland Land Trust at Mill Creek Park on Sunday, April 21.

  • Earth Day Beach Cleanup hosted by Casco Bay Cleanup Project and MaineHealth Sustainability Committee at the East End Beach in Portland on Monday, April 22.

  • Red Brook Cleanup Day hosted by the Sebago Chapter of Trout Unlimited and Maine Fly Guys in South Portland on Saturday, May 4.

Thank you to the businesses and organizations hosting these events.

If none of these events work for you, host your own cleanup! Picking up waste anywhere in the watershed region is helpful to the Bay – it doesn’t have to be on the coast.


6) Celebrate sustainable cities

The City of Portland is celebrating Earth Day on Saturday, April 20 with live music, food trucks, e-bike demos, composting, stories and more. Info here.


7) Drink a beer for the Bay this April.

We are thrilled to announce that our Friends at Allagash Brewing Company have selected Friends of Casco Bay as their Charitable Partner this month! What this means is that their tasting room team forwards all funds their guests add to their tabs directly to us all April long. So if you’re looking for a tasty way to support us, head over to Allagash, enjoy a beer, and be sure to add a little extra when paying your tab!


8) Take personal action.

There are a myriad of ways to walk more gently on the earth, heal the wounds of pollution, and be part of the solutions. Here are just a few ideas:

Remember to pick up after your pooch
Photo by Sam Bengs

• Remember to pick up after your pooch, and carry it out too.

• Green your ride by biking, walking, or carpooling.

• Stop using pesticides and fertilizers on your lawn.

• Get an energy audit on your home.

• Compost or use a service like Garbage to Garden.

• Eat local.

• Use less plastic.

And remember: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” – James Baldwin


9) Share some Earth love!

Clammers in Casco Bay. Photo by Heidi Holloway
Clammers in Casco Bay. Photo by Heidi Holloway

Post a photo of you and the Bay, then tag @FriendsofCascoBay on Facebook or Instagram.


10) Take a moment to connect with Casco Bay and the watershed. 

One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, ‘What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?’  –Rachel Carson

Harpswell sunset. Photo by Stephen G. Hobson
Harpswell sunset. Photo by Stephen G. Hobson

 


 

Coffee with Casco Baykeeper Stormwater video

Coffee with the Casco Baykeeper: Stormwater

Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca and Community Organizer Sara Freshley met with folks for an early morning conversation about one of Casco Bay’s largest sources of pollution: stormwater.

Recent weather events are a reminder that stormwater delivers some of the largest loads of pollution into Casco Bay. As stormwater flows over our roads, driveways, parking lots, and buildings, it collects a toxic slurry. Stormwater picks up pesticides and fertilizers from lawns, exhaust and salt from roadways, pathogens from pet waste, and so much more. It carries this toxic mix downstream and ultimately into Casco Bay, causing a host of water quality problems.

Ivy and Sara’s conversation over coffee focuses on the increasing impact stormwater has on Casco Bay and what Friends of Casco Bay is doing to help address this issue (sneak peek: it’s a lot!). They also share upcoming opportunities for you to use your voice to advocate for clean water. More than 110 Friends attended the event along with at least one reporter from the Portland Press Herald.

If you missed the event or want to rewatch it, click here.

 

 

 

 

Our Top 10 Moments of 2023

As this year comes to an end, let’s reflect and celebrate the many ways that we worked together to protect the health of Casco Bay in 2023. Here are our top ten stories of the year:

1) We won a four-year moratorium on new sources of pollution into the lower Presumpscot River. The moratorium prevents the permitting of new industrial or wastewater discharges into the river near where it empties into Casco Bay. As the Presumpscot drains two-thirds of the Casco Bay watershed, this was a big win for our waters. Portland Press Herald wrote an in-depth story on this effort. Our lead advocate, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca won the Chief Poulin Award for her work on the moratorium. Ivy is shown here receiving the award from Friends of the Presumpscot River board member, Will Plumley.

2) More than 100 of our volunteer Water Reporters deepened their knowledge about Casco Bay. Volunteer Water Reporters attended a wide array of meet-ups and trainings all around the Bay this year. Water Reporters spent time with experts and heard the most up-to-date information about living shorelines, marsh restoration, invasive species, and stormwater pollution.

3) The “Sensor Squad” is moving science forward for Casco Bay and all of Maine’s coastal waters. Good decisions are made using good data. Led, in part, by our Staff Scientist Mike Doan, the Sensor Squad is working to ensure we are using the most accurate climate change and acidification techniques and protocols we can. This work is a part of Maine Ocean Climate Collaborative, a coalition of scientists and marine organizations from the University of New Hampshire to the border of Maine and Canada working to improve climate change data collection. Friends of Casco Bay helps to lead the Collaborative.

4) Passamaquoddy Language Keeper Dwayne Tomah was the featured speaker at our Members Annual Meeting in August. He shared the Passamaquoddy word for ceremony, “olotahkewakon,” noting that our gathering was a ceremony for our mother earth. Dwayne’s refrain throughout the evening was “We are all in this together.” Watch the inspiring talk here.

5) We maintained the strength of the permit that regulates stormwater pollution from large urban communities. You may remember that we celebrated this stricter permit as our top story of 2022. Stormwater is one of the largest sources of pollution into Casco Bay. Since the permit that regulates urban stormwater went into effect in July 2022, we have been working to ensure that it is properly implemented. In November, the Maine Board of Environmental Protection agreed with us that the Maine Department of Environmental Protection must ensure that towns covered by the permit implement low-impact development ordinances that include nine strategies designed to reduce stormwater pollution from new construction and redevelopment.

6) The City of South Portland launched 100 Resilient Yards, providing a grassroots way to bring best practices in yard care directly to neighborhoods around the city. Residents and businesses who took part in the program were given technical and physical assistance to build healthy soils that protect Casco Bay. Experts and volunteers helped residents build rain gardens, grow pollinator gardens, and more. We hope other towns around the Bay look at this program as a model!

7) We organized 15 fun coastal cleanups, including one with the surf rock band Easy Honey and one with the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust. These cleanups gave community members a hands-on way to make a direct difference in the health of our waters by preventing waste and litter from being washed into the Bay.

8) We hired Community Organizer and Volunteer Coordinator Sara Freshley! Over the past 10 months, Sara has become an integral part of our team. She’s helped deepen the knowledge of our Water Reporters, organized storm drain stenciling and coastal cleanups, and worked to expand our outreach efforts.

Pile of expired flares9) We helped organize an expired flare collection event in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Casco Bay and the Maine State Fire Marshall. The event was a great success, collecting 1,945 expired marine flares. Marine flares are pyrotechnic devices that boaters can use as a distress signal in emergencies. They burn at high temperatures, posing a serious fire hazard for long-term storage. Flares also contain toxic chemicals that can contaminate water and soil. Due to these hazardous qualities, it is illegal to throw flares in the trash, and ill-advised to store them at home.

Scenic Category Winner 1st Place, Student Category Winner, Best of Show, by Ava McKinley

10) We got in touch with our artistic side! Our online event, Water as Inspiration, brought together three regional artists to draw the connections between creativity, the environment, and climate change. We had dozens of submissions to “Frame the Bay,” our first-ever photo contest at our Members Annual Meeting. And we shared the stage with filmmaker Maximillian Armstrong at our Film Fest for Casco Bay.

As YOU know, Casco Bay is an inspiration! Thank you for helping us protect this amazing place and for being a Friend of Casco Bay.

Taking Action on Stormwater

Stormwater made the Presumpscot River discolored in May 2023. Documented by Water Reporter Stephanie Noyes.

Stormwater delivers some of the largest loads of pollution into Casco Bay. As stormwater flows over our roads, driveways, parking lots, and buildings, it collects a toxic slurry. Instead of filtering into the soil, water sheets off these impervious surfaces, picking up pesticides and fertilizers from lawns, exhaust and salt from roadways, pathogens from pet waste, and so much more. Stormwater carries this toxic mix into our rivers, streams, and ultimately into Casco Bay, causing a host of water quality problems. While stormwater pollution is very difficult to eliminate because it is so diffuse, one of the ways we are working to reduce this pollution is through improving how the state protects our waters from this threat.

Here is some good news as we work to reduce stormwater pollution: the Maine Department of Environmental Protection asked Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca, our lead advocate, to serve on the Steering Committee revising Maine’s stormwater rules. These rules apply to large developments in all municipalities in Maine.

The Steering Committee contains twenty members tasked with identifying how the stormwater rules should be strengthened. Ivy’s work will be informed by her years of experience working to reduce stormwater pollution. The Steering Committee met for the first time in December 2023.

The stormwater rules as currently written are out-of-date. They apply only to large developments and miss a lot of the actual development and redevelopment in our watershed. The rules also do not require the use of low-impact development (LID) strategies, such as leaving buffers near streams. While they have some incentives for the use of LID techniques, those incentives rarely tempt developers. Also, as our climate changes, the rules must be revised to account for future increasing storm intensities and precipitation.

The next meeting of the Steering Committee will be in January 2024. To keep you up-to-date about this important process, Friends of Casco Bay will host an event in early 2024 about stormwater pollution, the revision process, how YOU can get involved, and, of course, why it matters for Casco Bay! More information will be sent via email. Sign up for our email list here.

Protecting Casco Bay from Stormwater

Friends of Casco Bay works hard to reduce stormwater pollution. Stormwater delivers some of the largest loads of pollution into Casco Bay. As stormwater flows over our roads, driveways, parking lots, and buildings, it collects a toxic slurry. Instead of filtering into the soil, water sheets off these impervious surfaces, picking up pesticides and fertilizers from lawns, exhaust and salt from roadways, pathogens from pet waste, and so much more. Stormwater carries this toxic mix into our rivers and streams, and ultimately into Casco Bay, causing a host of water quality problems.

While stormwater pollution is very difficult to eliminate because it is so diffuse, we are making progress on this threat by ensuring that the Clean Water Act permits that regulate stormwater are effectively implemented.

We have good news to share on this front. We maintained the strength of the permit that regulates stormwater discharged from large urban stormwater systems into our watershed through a successful appeal to the Maine Board of Environmental Protection.

You may remember that last year we celebrated that Maine’s new municipal separate storm sewer system (or, “MS4” as it is called) permit went into effect. For the first time, towns subject to the permit were required to develop LID ordinances to reduce pollution to the “maximum extent possible.”

Late last year, the municipalities subject to this permit submitted their draft ordinances to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for approval. To comply with the MS4 permit, the ordinances should have included nine mandatory LID strategies designed to reduce stormwater pollution from new construction and redevelopment. Although the drafts submitted by municipalities in our watershed did not contain all of these necessary elements, DEP approved the drafts.

To ensure the MS4 permit was properly implemented, we appealed DEP’s approval of the incomplete ordinances to the Board of Environmental Protection, a seven-member citizen board that provides independent decisions on the interpretation and enforcement of Maine’s environmental laws. This was our second appeal to the Board involving this MS4 permit, a decision that we did not take lightly but was needed to protect the Bay.

In November 2023, the Board of Environmental Protection agreed that DEP should not have approved the insufficient draft ordinances. The Board vacated the approvals and ordered DEP “to expeditiously set clear, specific, and measurable standards for the municipal LID ordinances.” The municipalities the order applies to include Biddeford, Cape Elizabeth, Cumberland, Falmouth, Freeport, Gorham, Portland, Saco, Scarborough,  South Portland, Westbrook, Windham, and Yarmouth.

We will continue to participate in the process to be certain the redrafted ordinances contain all of the necessary elements.

Willard Beach Reopens to Public

A sewer pipe near Willard Beach burst last week, causing the City of South Portland to temporarily close the beach to the public. We were in contact with the city as they worked to repair the pipe and are grateful for South Portland Water Resource Protection’s quick response to stop the flow into Casco Bay.

The beach reopened on Wednesday night after water quality tests showed it was safe for the public. For more information about the sewer break at Willard Beach, you can follow the City of South Portland on social media or read the media releases on their website

It has been a rough few years for Willard Beach and those who spend their time there. You may remember that in 2021, there was an oil spill and a sewer pipe that burst at the beach.

These incidents are reminders on the importance of investing in our stormwater and sewer systems–and the agencies and departments that maintain them. These investments are expensive and largely fall to municipalities, which often do not have abundant financial resources. Friends of Casco Bay advocates for funds at the state level that help support projects like these. Maintaining stormwater and sewer systems is crucial to keeping our communities healthy and Casco Bay clean. 

Water Reporter shows brown river flowing to Bay

“April showers bring May flowers” goes the old adage. This year, however, Maine’s spring showers were particularly intense, breaking rainfall records.

Stephanie Noyes lives near the mouth of the Presumpscot River, where it runs along the Portland-Falmouth border. On May 1, after a day of heavy rains, Stephanie stopped in her tracks when she saw the surging and discolored Presumpscot River flowing beneath the Allen Avenue Extension bridge. As a new volunteer Water Reporter, she snapped a photo and made her first post.

This section of the Presumpscot River is tidal, influenced by the ebb and flow of Casco Bay. Stephanie says that at low tide in the summer, it is common to see people sunbathing on a large rock in the river. It was low tide when Stephanie took her photo, however, “the water was so high you couldn’t even see the tip of the rock,” says Stephanie. “All of the runoff from the neighborhood was just gushing down into the river.”

At Friends of Casco Bay, we saw Stephanie’s photo and immediately thought of stormwater. When heavy rain falls, water rushes over our cities and towns, collecting pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers from lawns, exhaust and salt from roadways, pathogens from pet waste, and much more. This polluted runoff is called stormwater, which is a major source of pollution into the river and Casco Bay. This toxic soup can sicken swimmers, make seafood unsafe to eat, and harm marine life.

In the case of rivers like the Presumpscot, stormwater runoff can erode the riverbanks, delivering loads of sediments that stain the water brown. This brown water makes it easy to visualize the amount of stormwater the river can carry and its influence on the health of the estuary. As the river empties into the sea, it turns Casco Bay brown, too.

The view from the Eastern Promenade in Portland shows where the Presumpscot River flows into Casco Bay. When the river is stained brown from heavy rains, a massive streak of brown water runs through the Bay. This is a strong visualization of the intimate relationship between these bodies of water and the impact of stormwater pollution.

Stephanie, thank you for being a Water Reporter and helping us keep an eye on the Presumpscot River and Casco Bay. Stephanie’s photo is helping us illustrate the impacts of stormwater pollution, a major threat to the health of the estuary, and a top priority at Friends of Casco Bay. The photo is worth more than a thousand words as to why we need to improve Maine’s stormwater protections.

Thank you to L.L.Bean, Ferris Olson Family Foundation for Ocean Stewardship, Allagash Brewing Company, and our members for their support of our Water Reporter program.

Portland’s Landcare Ordinance Will Help the Bay

In great news for Casco Bay, the Portland City Council voted unanimously to limit the use of fertilizers in Maine’s largest city. On September 19, the council amended the city’s pesticide ordinance to become a landcare ordinance, which now includes policies that will:

  • Prohibit the application of fertilizers within 75 feet of a water body, which includes Casco Bay and the streams that flow into it.
  • Prohibit the application of fertilizers unless a soil test indicates a need for it.
  • Prohibit the application of fertilizers on frozen ground.
  • Limit the quantity and frequency of fertilizer application to performance turf.

These common sense policies are very similar to those found in South Portland’s fertilizer ordinance which was adopted in 2020. Friends of Casco Bay’s former Executive Director, Cathy Ramsdell, served on the committee that developed that ordinance. Limiting the use of fertilizers is not only good for soil health, but it is also great for the Bay.

In Casco Bay, excess nitrogen from fertilizers can cause excessive algal growth that can reduce water clarity, prevent juvenile clams from settling, and suffocate marine life that lives in mudflats. When an algal bloom dies off, its decomposition can lower oxygen levels and contribute to coastal acidification.

We applaud the City of Portland for taking action on this important issue and thank all the Portland residents who expressed their support for the landcare ordinance. Reducing fertilizer use makes a big difference for the health of Casco Bay.

Casco Bay’s years-long fight against pollution buoyed by new stormwater rules

The Clean Water Act had a transformative effect on the watershed after it was first passed. With new state permitting regulations, it can again.

Exclusive to the Portland Press Herald, by Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca

As the country celebrates the 50th anniversary of Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie’s masterpiece, the Clean Water Act, it’s a good time to assess its achievements and challenges. With age comes wisdom – and the capacity to recognize the need to change and evolve.

Since it was first passed in 1972, the Clean Water Act has excelled at reducing industrial and sewage pollution. In the Casco Bay watershed, we have witnessed the dramatic reduction of toxic discharges from paper production into the Presumpscot River. We also have witnessed the near elimination of raw sewage reaching Casco Bay due to the proliferation of wastewater treatment facilities. Older generations may remember the days before the act, when boaters were warned away from Casco Bay due to industrial pollution, and the stench and presence of untreated human waste.

Beginning in 1987, the Clean Water Act was expanded to regulate and reduce pollution carried in stormwater. This is much harder to do. When it rains or snow melts, water sheets off roads, roofs, parking lots and other hard surfaces. It picks up a toxic slurry of pesticides and fertilizers from lawns, exhaust and salt from roads, pathogens from pet waste and much more. In our cities and towns, much of this polluted stormwater flows into storm drains, through underground pipes and into waterways. Very little of this polluted water receives treatment.

While stormwater pollution is challenging to address, the Clean Water Act is among the best tools to address it. As of July 1, the Clean Water Act permit that regulates stormwater from our most urbanized communities will include three new requirements that will have a profound effect:

• municipalities must test stormwater coming out of their storm sewer system, identify sources of bacterial pollution and eliminate them;

• municipalities must adopt an ordinance requiring the use of low impact development techniques to reduce pollution from large development and redevelopment projects, and;

• municipalities must take three actions to restore water quality to waters impaired by stormwater discharges.

These measures will improve the health of waters in Maine’s most urbanized areas. In a state where our economy and way of life rests on the foundation of clean water, these strengthened requirements are needed now more than ever.

The best scientists in the state agree that climate change is increasing Maine’s annual rate of precipitation and causing more intense storms. These trends will exacerbate stormwater pollution. It will take more than these permit changes to prepare for and address this serious threat to water quality.

To tackle stormwater pollution in Maine, we will need to strengthen other stormwater permits issued under the Clean Water Act. In addition, Maine must strengthen its stormwater rules to reduce the use of chlorides, preserve open lands to naturally filter water and require small-scale development to address contributions to stormwater pollution. Municipalities should adopt stricter ordinances to decrease pollution from new and redevelopment. And we as individuals can make choices that help reduce stormwater pollution, such as leaving planted buffers near waters, not dumping leaf debris into waterways and limiting or eliminating our use of pesticides and fertilizers.

In this moment, though, let’s celebrate how far we and our waters have come.

Here’s to 50 years of the Clean Water Act. From reining in industrial and sewage pollution to taking new steps on stormwater, this landmark law has helped us improve and protect the Casco Bay watershed. Empowered by this success, let’s roll up our sleeves and work together to address the challenges ahead.

Doggie Do’s and Doggie Don’ts

Many of us love our dogs as much as we love Casco Bay. Some dog owners may even love their dogs more than Casco Bay. 

The good news is dogs and the Bay are not mutually exclusive, and we can love them both! In doing so, here are two important reminders for all of us as we care for our dogs and Casco Bay. 

Cheering the launch of our pumpout boat, Headmaster, Josie the Golden Retriever knows the importance of keeping poop out of the Bay.

Pick Up the Poop

Dog poop contains pathogens and excessive nutrients that can contaminate ponds, streams, rivers, and Casco Bay. All dog owners have the responsibility to pick up after their pups and properly dispose of their poop in the trash. Dog poop should never be discarded in storm drains, which flow directly into waterways, including Casco Bay. 

Abandoned poop bags and piles of dog poop are becoming increasing problems at parks, beaches, and other public spaces that are popular dog walking locations (more dogs means more poop!). Please join us in caring for our waters by picking up after your dog and ensuring no poop washes away into Casco Bay. 

Stay Off the Dunes

Just like humans, dogs love to hit the beach. When they do, please keep them off the sand dunes. These fragile ecosystems are critical for the integrity of the shoreline and help to prevent erosion. During storms, sand dunes serve as a barrier to storm surge and prevent flooding. This ecosystem service is particularly important at beaches like Willard in South Portland, where a neighborhood abuts the beach. When our dogs run loose on sand dunes, they exacerbate erosion and damage the plant life that holds the dunes together. Help us care for our beaches and Casco Bay by keeping dogs off the dunes. 

Please join us in taking on these Bay-friendly doggie-practices and kindly spreading the word to our friends, family, and neighbors. It takes a community to care for the Bay, and that includes our four-legged friends