Home » More Than 170 Volunteers Assemble to Nab Nitrogen in Portland Harbor

More Than 170 Volunteers Assemble to Nab Nitrogen in Portland Harbor

Media Release:

For August 7, 2022


Robby Lewis-Nash

Friends of Casco Bay

(413) 695 3306

robbylewisnash [at] cascobay [dot] org

More Than 170 Volunteers Assemble to Nab Nitrogen in Portland Harbor

Volunteers with Friends of Casco Bay took part in a Clean Water Act day of action to gather data and help address nitrogen pollution in Casco Bay  

Portland, ME: Over 170 volunteers from 26 towns and communities across the Casco Bay Region converged on Portland Harbor on Sunday morning as part of a major community science event. The event, Nabbing Nitrogen, was organized by Friends of Casco Bay to collect much needed data on the status of nitrogen pollution in Portland Harbor.

“Nitrogen pollution is one of the top threats to the health of Casco Bay,” says Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca. “We know that it comes from many different sources, like urban streams, stormwater outfalls, and wastewater treatment plants. By nabbing nitrogen today, we can better understand and compare how much these sources are contributing to the pollution overall, and find solutions to address them.”

At 9:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, Nabbing Nitrogen volunteers spread out around Portland Harbor and collected simultaneous water samples during the outgoing tide, the ideal tidal conditions to measure nitrogen pollution. Volunteers collected their samples from the shores of Portland and South Portland, as well as the harbor-facing shores of Peaks Island, Cushing Island, and Little Diamond Island. Approximately 50 volunteers collected their water samples via boat and kayak in the harbor. Once collected, all water samples were promptly returned to central locations and put on ice to preserve sample quality. 

“What we showed today is that our community is ready to get our hands wet for clean water,” says Friends of Casco Bay Executive Director, Will Everitt. “For so many of us, Casco Bay is home. We understand that the health of the Bay and the health of our communities are intimately connected. In the age of climate change and warming waters, we showed that we are ready to help protect the health of the coastal waters that sustain us all.” 

Friends of Casco Bay organized Nabbing Nitrogen in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act to better understand nitrogen pollution in Casco Bay. The effort focused on Portland Harbor because nitrogen pollution is most severe in densely populated areas. The water samples collected by volunteers will be used to create a detailed “snapshot” of nitrogen levels across the harbor. These data will be integral to Friends of Casco Bay’s advocacy to reduce nitrogen pollution, and will be used by Maine Department of Environmental Protection as it  develops nitrogen discharge criteria. Once adopted, these criteria will influence Clean Water Act permits. 

Nitrogen is naturally found in marine waters. A healthy amount of nitrogen in Casco Bay supports the base of the food chain. But excess nitrogen from human sources such as wastewater, lawncare chemicals, stormwater, air pollution, and other sources can cause excessive algal growth that harms the health of the marine environment. Some of the impacts of nitrogen pollution include shutting down shellfisheries, degrading eelgrass beds (which are critical fish nursery habitat), exacerbating coastal acidification, and lowering oxygen levels.

More information about Nabbing Nitrogen can be found, here: https://www.cascobay.org/nabbing-nitrogen/#nab-faq

Interview opportunities: Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca and Executive Director Will Everitt are available for interviews upon request. To schedule an interview, contact Robby Lewis-Nash: (413) 695-3306 [mobile], robbylewisnash [at] cascobay [dot] org.


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