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.
As the Clean Water Act turns 50, Friends of Casco Bay celebrates new permit to reduce stormwater pollution.
Stormwater is one of the largest sources of pollution into Casco Bay. Yet, until this year, Maine has not required clear, specific, and measurable terms in the permit that controls discharges from large urban stormwater systems.
Thanks to the advocacy of Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca and Friends of Casco Bay’s partners around the Bay, the state has issued a revised municipal stormwater permit that contains much-needed protections to reduce stormwater pollution flowing from the most urbanized communities in the state.
Under the Clean Water Act, reducing and eliminating the pollutants that flow through municipal separate storm sewer systems (or “MS4s” for short) is regulated by a general permit issued by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). In a city like Portland, these stormwater systems include the streets, storm drains, gutters, roadside ditches, and sewers that discharge untreated stormwater runoff into local waterways, some of which drain into Casco Bay.
Maine’s new MS4 permit will implement three major changes that should significantly reduce stormwater pollution into Casco Bay and its tributaries. Municipalities that fall under the permit will be required for the first time to:
Test stormwater outfalls to identify and eliminate sources of bacterial contamination
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
Take three actions to restore water quality and reduce pollution from their stormwater systems where it flows into impaired waters.
It took five years of advocacy by Friends of Casco Bay and scores of meetings, comments, and proceedings to ensure these vital protections were included in Maine’s new MS4 permit.
“This is a time to celebrate,” says Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca. “The changes in this permit should have huge and visible results for our watershed. What better year to have this permit take effect than during 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. For example, excess nitrogen fertilizes nuisance and sometimes harmful algal blooms. Toxins can poison wildlife and degrade ecosystems. Too much bacteria closes clam flats. As climate change brings more and stronger storms to Maine, the impacts of stormwater pollution will worsen without these changes.”
Conjure an image of Casco Bay. Do you see healthy, blue-green water? Most likely.
Yet anyone who has seen Casco Bay after a large rain might conjure a different image, where that vibrant blue-green is replaced with plumes of murky, brown stormwater.
Stormwater is one of the largest sources of pollution into Casco Bay. Stormwater is a problem because our roads, driveways, parking lots, and buildings do not allow rain to soak into the ground and be filtered through natural processes. When snow melts in the spring or rain falls, water rushes over our cities and towns, collecting a toxic slurry of pesticides and fertilizers from lawns, exhaust and salt from roadways, pathogens from pet waste, and so much more. In urbanized areas, much of this polluted runoff drains into municipal storm sewer systems that discharge into streams, rivers, and, ultimately, Casco Bay.
There are solutions to this modern problem. By using low impact development techniques, green infrastructure, and testing and investigating sources of contamination, we can drastically reduce this pollution.
The new MS4 permit will go into effect in July of this year. In the Casco Bay watershed, it applies to twelve municipalities and specifically regulates stormwater pollution in their most densely populated areas. The municipalities include Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth, South Portland, Portland, Falmouth, Cumberland, Yarmouth, and Freeport along the coast, as well as inland communities such as Windham, Westbrook, and Gorham.
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,” says Doug. “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.”
MS4 permits, like all Clean Water Act permits, are renewed every five years. The renewal process provides the opportunity to assess if the permit sufficiently protects water quality or if there are improvements that need to be made. The process also allows for incremental advances that recognize budget constraints, developments in knowledge and technology, and the reality of what can be accomplished in five years.
MS4 permits that apply to municipalities are required to contain “clear, specific, and measurable” terms to address stormwater pollution, according to a federal court ruling from 2003. In short, this ruling required environmental agencies like the Maine DEP to clearly describe how permitted municipalities should address stormwater pollution. When Maine’s MS4 permit was due to be renewed in 2018, Ivy knew there were important improvements to be made. The last version of the permit issued in 2013 did not include “clear, specific, and measurable” terms to reduce pollution.
“The requirement to set forth ‘clear, specific, and measurable’ terms in MS4 permits may be the best thing to happen for our watershed in a long time,” explains Ivy. “It fundamentally changed how MS4 permits could be written and gave Friends of Casco Bay the foundation to advocate for new permit language that will effectively reduce pollution from past actions and ensure future development does not degrade our waters.”
When the state began the permit renewal process in 2017, Ivy submitted comments on the first draft advocating for these new terms. However, for DEP and many municipalities, implementing a stronger MS4 permit would require valuable time and resources. Over the next four years, Ivy continued to advocate for stricter standards and filed more than eight sets of comments on drafts of the permit.
Ultimately, Friends of Casco Bay filed an appeal to the Maine Board of Environmental Protection asking that the new “clear, specific, and measurable” terms that Ivy had advocated for be included in the permit. In the summer of 2021, the Board of Environmental Protection sided with Friends in the appeal, and Maine’s new MS4 permit was finalized on December 23. In order to provide DEP and affected municipalities additional time to prepare to implement the new terms, it was agreed that the permit would officially go into effect on July 1, 2022.
Will Everitt, Interim Director of Friends of Casco Bay, sees this victory as a great example of how Friends works. “This was a long and challenging process,” says Will. “The way we advocate for the health of the Bay is just as important as what we achieve. We have deep respect for the DEP and affected municipalities. While we sought to address what may be the biggest source of pollution into the Bay, we also worked hard to collaborate with our partners and listen to concerns throughout the process.”
Today, there are more people living by and working on Casco Bay than ever before, and as our communities grow, so do our impacts on the health of the Bay. Climate change brings additional challenges to the coast, such as altering ocean chemistry and intensifying rainstorms that will send more stormwater into Casco Bay.
Damon Yakovleff, Environmental Planner at the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District, provides technical support to municipalities on stormwater and sustainability projects. “This permit is a part of the broader effort to make this a truly sustainable region that treads more lightly on the environment,” says Damon. “It matters in a holistic way. It is about preventing water pollution, but it goes far beyond that. It’s about supporting our economy, culture, and quality of life.”
The MS4 permit’s new stormwater protections that go into effect beginning this year will help reduce these threats. A healthy Bay is a resilient Bay. With less pollution flowing to our coastal waters, Casco Bay and our coastal communities will be better prepared to withstand the challenges we know are looming on the horizon.
9.) We launched the public phase of our $1.5 million Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund. We are now less than $15,000 from crossing the finish line! And we will soon be launching two more continuous monitoring stations, thanks to the Fund!
People walk past storm drains every day without giving them a thought.
Yet, storm drains deserve our attention. Storm drains are designed to help prevent flooding by diverting rainwater from our streets and parking lots into a natural body of water. But when storm drains are clogged or misused, they deliver unwanted pollution to streams, rivers, and Casco Bay.
Will you help keep pollution out of our storm drains?
It is important to the health of the Bay that storm drains stay clear and free of litter, waste, and chemicals. We can each do our part to help keep storm drains working as they should:
Clear leafy debris and other material from the storm drain so water can flow into it.
Move your car or other obstructions when your community schedules street sweeping. Municipalities sweep the streets to keep their storm drain systems working properly. Portland has geared up for their fall sweeping, and other communities may be doing so as well.
Never put anything down a storm drain. This includes: dog poop whether it is bagged or not, trash, cigarettes, hazardous wastes, such as household cleaners, unused paint, paint thinner, used oil, and lawn care chemicals.
Pick up after your pet and toss the waste in the trash.
Hang on to your leftover paints and pesticides for municipality-designated household hazardous waste collection days.
Don’t dump outdated medicines down a storm drain.
Pick up litter so it never makes it to a storm drain.
Remember, Casco Bay is downstream from everything in the watershed!
In Portland, street sweepers remove an average of 2,666 tons of grit, trash, and debris each year! A cigarette butt or pet waste thrown into a storm drain may seem like a small thing, but those small items add up.
Thank you for helping reduce stormwater pollution to Casco Bay. Your efforts will complement the work municipalities are doing to reduce the flow of pollutants such as fertilizer, oil, pesticides, dirt, bacteria, and trash to our coastal waters.
These images of dog poop bags and other debris at an outfall (left) and being cleaned out using special equipment (right) are courtesy of City of Portland’s Public Works Department.
A wedge of dirty brown water floating on Casco Bay after a hard rain makes it is easy to understand that stormwater is one of the largest sources of pollution to our coastal waters. Stormwater can wash fertilizer, oil, pesticides, dirt, bacteria and other pollutants into our coastal waters. After one heavy rainstorm, we found a wedge of polluted stormwater 18 feet deep floating on top of seawater in Portland Harbor. Some of that polluted water flows into the Bay through storm drains, pipes, and ditches maintained by municipalities.
Over the next five years, many of the larger municipalities in the Casco Bay watershed will try to significantly reduce stormwater pollution. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection issues a new permit every five years to regulate pollution from municipal separate storm sewer systems. In each new permit cycle, the intent is to make communities more effective at reducing stormwater pollution.
Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca is especially excited about two new provisions in the draft permit that regulates pollution from municipal separate storm sewer systems—MS4s for short.
Says Ivy, “Under the proposed permit, municipalities must test their stormwater outfalls for bacteria and other pollutants—and if found, they must trace them back to the source and work to eliminate the pollutants. Second, if a stormwater system discharges into an urban impaired stream listed in the permit, the municipality must identify ways it will reduce pollution, both through structural changes to treat stormwater and nonstructural changes, which could include adoption of an ordinance to restrict and reduce the use of fertilizers.”
Our Casco Baykeeper commented on many preliminary drafts of the new MS4 permit. She also met with state and town officials many times to discuss permit terms. Says Ivy, “We are gratified that our towns and cities worked with us and agreed to take these measures to improve and protect the waters we cherish and rely on.”
Fred Dillon, South Portland’s Stormwater Program Coordinator, reflects, “Ivy and Friends of Casco Bay were instrumental in helping MS4 communities step up our water resource protection efforts while also ensuring we have the adequate funding to do so.” South Portland is one of the communities around Casco Bay regulated under the general MS4 permit, along with Cape Elizabeth, Cumberland, Falmouth, Freeport, Portland, Scarborough, Westbrook, and Yarmouth.
Senator Brownie Carson
Representative Ralph Tucker
Environment and Natural Resources Committee
c/o Legislative Information Office 100 State House Station Augusta, ME 04333 ENR [at] legislature [dot] maine [dot] gov
Re: Friends of Casco Bay Testimony in Support of LD 1832: An Act To Ensure Adequate Funding for the Maine Pollutant Discharge Elimination System and Waste Discharge Licensing Program
Dear Senator Carson, Representative Tucker, and Distinguished Members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee,
Friends of Casco Bay offers the following testimony in support of LD 1832: An Act To Ensure Adequate Funding for the Maine Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (MEPDES) and Waste Discharge Licensing (WDL) Program. This funding is critical to Maine’s continued success in improving and protecting the health of its waters for sustenance, commerce, recreation, and solace.
For 30 years, Friends of Casco Bay has worked to improve and protect the health of Casco Bay. During our tenure, we have advocated for and witnessed improved water quality through the MEPDES permit program. Here are three examples:
MEPDES permits have reduced bacteria and toxic pollutant loads to Casco Bay and its tributaries, resulting in healthier waters for fishing and recreation.
Recent permits have required sewage treatment facilities that discharge into Casco Bay to test for nitrogen and, in some instances, reduce nitrogen loads to Casco Bay. Excess nitrogen can fertilize large blooms of macro-algae that smother marine life and harmful micro-algal blooms that can close areas to harvesting and aquaculture. As the blooms die, they release carbon dioxide, which mixes with sea water to make it more acidic. This process is known as coastal acidification. The East End wastewater treatment facility in Portland has seasonally reduced its nitrogen load by an average of 64-70% over the past two years. Eelgrass beds near the discharge pipe are beginning to rebound and an algal bloom that had been present in outer Back Cove disappeared.
In the near future, we hope to see more stringent terms in the general permit that regulates stormwater discharges from municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4 permit). The comment period on the draft MS4 permit recently closed. Based on the draft, the new MS4 permit likely will include testing for certain pollutants in the storm water system to eliminate sources and also measures to help restore urban impaired streams.
This level of success cannot continue without adequate funding and staffing at DEP. The funding requested in LD 1832 represents a fraction of the budget needed to run the MEPDES program and a wise investment to improve and protect the waters that form a backbone of our economy and way of life.
The MEPDES program and its role in restoring and protecting Maine waters: Senator Edmund Muskie introduced the Clean Water Act of 1972 (CWA). He knew firsthand that Maine’s rivers and coastal waters were fouled with industrial chemicals that made people sick and poisoned waters for drinking, fishing and swimming. The CWA created the national pollutant discharge elimination system (NPDES) program. That program makes it illegal for facilities (known as point sources) to discharge pollutants to waters of the United States without a permit. The permit limits the amount of pollutants that can be discharged, in order to maintain or restore water quality; it is illegal to degrade water quality. NPDES permits are issued for 5 year terms, allowing regulators to adjust limits based on new technology or new water quality issues. The CWA also allows for enforcement when permit terms are violated.
The CWA authorizes EPA to delegate its authority to states to run the NPDES program, subject to federal oversight. If a state does not run its program effectively, EPA can take back control.
In April 2000, EPA delegated its NPDES authority to Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Our program became known as the MEPDES permit program.
The Memorandum of Agreement authorizing this delegation of authority requires Maine to process permits in a timely manner, comprehensively evaluate and assess compliance, take vigorous and timely enforcement actions, maintain effective pretreatment programs, and issue annual reports to EPA. To fulfill the terms of this agreement, DEP must have adequate staff and funding.
Why a fee increase is needed: To fulfill the terms of this agreement, DEP must have adequate staff and funding to administer the approximately 940 MEPDES permits it issues to about 400 point source discharges, 500 facilities under the Industrial Stormwater Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP), and 40 entities licensed under the MS4 general permit.
The legislature has not approved a fee increase since 2008. Maine needs these license fees to partially fund the MEPDES program.
According to DEP, it has only 28 core staff (Full Time Equivalents – FTEs) to cover licensing, compliance/technical assistance, enforcement, administration, data management, and the water quality monitoring/modeling inherent to the MEPDES program. Only 6 of those positions are funded by licensing fees. The other 22 positions are funded by federal grants, state general fund, and State Revolving Fund administrative revenue. Two of the federally funded positions (enforcement and permitting) have been held vacant for several years due to a projected shortfall in a federal water grant account. This has led to a backlog of enforcement cases and delays in licensing. In addition, a stormwater inspector position that is funded by stormwater license fees has been held vacant due to insufficient revenue to fill the position.
LD 1832 seeks a 40% across the board fee increase to keep the MEPDES program solvent through FY 2026. Based on conversations with DEP officials, it appears that the State has done what it can to minimize fee increases and to not shift undue financial burden to permittees, which includes municipalities. This investment in clean water may appear difficult but is a modest fee increase when compared to the expenses of restoring impaired waters and the possibility of losing our delegated authority to run the MEPDES program, if the State is unable to fulfill its obligations.
For these reasons, we urge you to vote that LD 1832 ought to pass.
Ivy L. Frignoca, Casco Baykeeper
Friends of Casco Bay
43 Slocum Drive
South Portland, ME 04106
Office: (207) 799-8574 ext. 202
Cell: (207) 831-3067 ifrignoca [at] cascobay [dot] org
Friends of Casco Bay has a long history of success. Since our founding in 1989, our work-with, science-based approach has moved the needle toward a healthier, more protected Bay.
We championed a halt to cruise ship pollution and won a No Discharge Area designation for Casco Bay, the first in Maine.
We have secured better long-term protection through Clean Water Act classification upgrades for three areas of Casco Bay, ensuring stricter, permanent pollution restrictions.
Our water quality data are sent to Congress every two years; the Maine Department of Environmental Protection uses our data in its Clean Water Act biennial reporting to Congress and would not be in compliance without it.
We advocated for Portland to get back on track—and we continue to push to keep efforts on track— to fulfill its court-ordered agreement to clean up and eliminate dozens of combined sewer overflows, reducing the amount of raw sewage flowing into the Bay.
We convinced the legislature to form an Ocean Acidification Commission to investigate and make policy recommendations to address our acidifying waters.
We helped form the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership (MOCA) to coordinate the work of researchers, government officials, and advocates to reduce acidification and address climate change. Our Casco Baykeeper currently serves as the coordinator of MOCA.
We successfully advocated for Portland to pass an ordinance designed to discourage single-use bags in favor of reusable ones. The bag ordinance, in turn, inspired Brunswick, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Freeport, South Portland, and eight other towns in the state to pass similar laws. We also won a polystyrene (e.g. Styrofoam) ban in Portland.
Our BayScaping Program is teaching thousands of residents and landscaping professionals to grow green lawns that keep Casco Bay blue; this is the model for the state of Maine’s YardScaping Program.
Our Casco Bay Curriculum has reached an estimated 17,500 students. We help teachers incorporate our monitoring data into their classroom activities. We have provided professional development courses for more than 700 teachers.
We helped lead the response to the largest oil spill in Maine history, the Julie N, and assisted responders in recovering an unprecedented 78% of the spilled oil (a 15-20% recovery is considered a success).
On July 26, 1.69 million gallons of partially-treated wastewater overflowed from Portland’s East End Sewage Treatment Facility into Casco Bay. This story made the news and captured our attention. That same day, 9.85 million gallons of combined sewer overflows (CSOs), containing raw sewage and toxic chemicals, also entered the Bay. Not a single news outlet reported that fact.
So while swimmers—especially those preparing for the Peaks to Portland Swim—worried about the impact of the partially-treated discharge from the East End plant (wastewater that had already had solids removed and been chlorinated to kill bacteria), we worried about the close to 10 million gallons of a far more toxic slurry that entered the Bay.
On that day, the combined sewer overflow at Mackworth Street discharged 824,000 gallons of untreated water and the CSO at Dartmouth Street discharged 833,000 gallons into Back Cove. The India Street CSO discharged 415,000 gallons and the Long Wharf CSO released 563,000 gallons of untreated water into Portland Harbor.
What is a Combined Sewer Overflow?
Combined sewer systems are relics of the past that we are still using today. In Portland and many cities across the county, these systems were designed to collect—and combine— sewage and stormwater in the same pipes. Most of the time, the pipes transport all the collected wastewater to a sewage treatment plant, where it is treated and then discharged into a body of water. But when we experience heavy rains or snowmelt, the runoff entering the system exceeds the capacity of the pipes. When the pipes fill to certain levels, these antiquated systems are designed to dump a mix of stormwater, untreated waste, toxic materials, and debris directly into the ocean, or into nearby streams and rivers that flow into the Bay.
These periodic discharges are far more concerning to us than a one-time breach at the East End facility. For over 25 years, Friends of Casco Bay has been pushing the City to eliminate these combined sewer overflows. We are very supportive of Portland’s current work to separate combined pipes, build storage tanks, and eliminate CSOs. Over the next two years, as Casco Baykeeper, I will represent Friends of Casco Bay as a member of the stakeholder team that helps shepherd a process called integrated planning, which will enable the City to meet these objectives efficiently and in ways that best improve water quality.
The Environmental Protection Agency created the integrated planning approach to help municipalities such as Portland meet multiple Clean Water Act requirements by identifying efficiencies from separate wastewater and stormwater programs and sequencing investments so that the highest priority projects come first. This approach can also lead to more sustainable and comprehensive solutions, such as green infrastructure, that improve water quality and provide multiple benefits that enhance community vitality.
We will continue to participate, as we have for over 25 years, to help ensure that these combined efforts achieve more effective and timely improvements in water quality in Casco Bay.
What you can do to reduce stormwater and sewage pollution
Support communities’ efforts to upgrade their wastewater and stormwater systems.
Employ “green solutions” to reduce stormwater runoff from our own properties:
install permeable pavement on driveways and patios, so water percolates into the soil below
reduce the size of the lawn; plant shrubs and ground cover, which hold water better then turf
use rain barrels to catch runoff from roofs
Boaters should use shoreside bathroom facilities or pumpout services to keep raw sewage out of the Bay. Our pumpout boat operates from Memorial Day to Halloween. Contact pumpout [at] cascobay [dot] org.
As always, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca has been on the move, working across Casco Bay, the state—and the nation—on efforts to protect the environmental health of Casco Bay.
A peek into her appointment calendar shows some of the highlights so far this year, as she continued to track Legislative issues and to comment on proposed wastewater and stormwater discharge permits that the Department of Environmental Protection issues to municipalities.
I became coordinator of the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership (MOCA) for 2018.
I will help coordinate research and advocacy on ocean acidification with a strong statewide network of policy makers, fishermen, shellfish growers, and scientists. This year-long role supports our work examining coastal acidification and excess nitrogen.
I invited Portland’s Water Resources Manager, Nancy Gallinaro, and Portland Water District’s Director of Wastewater Services, Scott Firmin, to travel with me to meet the new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 1 Administrator, Alexandra Dapolito Dunn. We highlighted our joint efforts to reduce nitrogen pollution, combined sewer overflows, and stormwater pollution to Casco Bay. I shared our data showing the impacts of climate change on Casco Bay.
Administrator Dunn accepted our invitation to come to Maine in June to attend a meeting of the Maine Nutrient Council, a group convened by Casco Bay Estuary Partnership. Afterward, Administrator Dunn will tour the Bay on our Baykeeper boat, a great opportunity for a close-up view of issues that threaten the water quality of Casco Bay.
I traveled to Washington, DC, at the invitation of Ocean Conservancy, to meet with our Congressional delegation and ask for full funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the EPA. The measures we pressed for passed in the omnibus budget!
Back in Maine, I submitted comments opposing offshore drilling and then attended a meeting hosted by the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management, to voice Friends of Casco Bay’s opposition to offshore drilling. I supported a resolve that was passed unanimously by our state legislature expressing its opposition to offshore drilling.
I testified at a public hearing as we worked to swiftly defeat a bill that would have practically eliminated the ability of municipalities to pass pesticide ordinances. If you contacted legislators after receiving our email alert about this issue, thank you! The bill was defeated!
I traveled to New Hampshire to attend a meeting of experts concerned about the rise in harmful algal blooms throughout the region, so we could learn more about new species appearing in Casco Bay.
I attended a meeting in West Bath, which drew together people who live and work along the New Meadows River, to discuss how expanding efforts in aquaculture may figure into the many uses of the estuary.
Research Associate Mike Doan gave Kate Simpson and Kayla McMurray, staffers for Senator Susan Collins, a ride to our Continuous Monitoring Station in Yarmouth. I met them at our “Cage of Science” as we demonstrated how we use technology to monitor the Bay hourly, 365 days a year. We explained that though we do not receive funding directly from the EPA, the Agency has a vital role in advising state regulators on strategies to reduce pollution, funding other research, and enforcing the Clean Water Act. This work helps us all protect the environmental health of Casco Bay.
The Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership (MOCA) is a volunteer partnership that seeks to coordinate the work of governmental agencies and private organizations and citizens who are studying and implementing means to reduce the impacts of or help adapt to ocean and coastal acidification.
With my colleagues in the MOCA Partnership, I hosted a workshop for nearly 60 scientists, harvesters, policy makers, and advocates on What We Know about Ocean Acidification and Maine’s Lobsters. The event at Bowdoin College featured current research on the effects of climate change on lobsters and emphasized the need for ecosystem-level, long-term studies.
As the year progresses, I look forward to continuing to keep you updated on the biggest issues affecting the health of the waters we all love.
MS4. Unless you are a civil engineer or a municipal public works director charged with dealing with discharge permits, you may not know that “MS4” stands for municipal separate storm sewer systems (called MS4 because “s” is repeated four times). An MS4 is a system of storm drains, pipes, or ditches that collect and carry stormwater, untreated, into our waterways (not to a sewage treatment facility).
To reduce stormwater pollution, the Clean Water Act requires larger cities and towns to develop an MS4 plan that includes six Minimum Control Measures: public education, public involvement and participation, illicit discharge
detection and elimination (finding and eliminating sources of contamination that improperly enter the pipes), construction measures designed to reduce stormwater pollution, post construction inspections to ensure compliance, and municipal pollution prevention practices.
MS4 permits for these plans must be renewed every five years. Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca is participating in the stakeholder process initiated by Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection, as it drafts the next MS4 permit.
You may have noticed that storms are more intesne, and the pollutants that rainstorms are flushing into the Bay are increasing dramatically. After one heavy rainstorm, we found a wedge of polluted stormwater 18 feet deep floating on top of seawater in Portland Harbor. Ivy worries,“Imagine what it would be like for a fish trying to navigate through that toxic mix of oil and gas from city streets, pesticides, bacteria, and nitrogen pollution from sewage and fertilizers!”
Ivy says, “The goal is to improve water quality and reduce nitrogen inputs and other pollutants. Reviewing and commenting on drafts of the next MS4 permit gives us an opportunity to help reduce the impacts of the largest source of pollution into Casco Bay.”