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Water Reporters Spur Actions to Protect the Bay

July 26—The Day the Poop Hit the Bay

Out and About with the Casco Baykeeper

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.

Polluted water gushes into Casco Bay from a combined sewer overflow beneath Portland’s busy waterfront.
Photo credit: Dave Laliberte

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.

Water Reporter Volunteers are important to our Baykeeping efforts!

Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca acts as the eyes, ears, and voice of the Bay. She is on or along the water almost daily, but she can’t be everywhere. Ivy says, “We rely on volunteers to report conditions around the Bay. The Water Reporter App really helps those efforts because we instantly receive a photo that records the location and time. We can then use the app to respond and let you know what actions we took.”

Volunteers began signing up as Water Reporters in early August. More than 30 volunteers have signed up around the Bay and have posted many observations with us.

For example, Morrigan shot this image of a gull sitting on a dead harbor sea near Bangs Island. We then promptly shared this information with Marine Mammals of Maine.

In Water Reporter, hashtags are used to categorize images and Morrigan used #wildlife for this image.


In another example, Ivy took photos of an algal bloom in South Portland near Forest City Cemetery, using #algae. These photos add to our understanding of potential sources of excess nutrient loading in the area.


Morrigan provided a close-up of the thick algal mat there.

And we like to get good news, too:

Rick reported new growth of eelgrass beds sprouting along the shoreline of Great Diamond Island.


Mark reported on #wildlife of a great blue heron and egrets taking flight in Maquoit Bay.

The Water Reporter app collects all of our observations in one place in an organized and searchable way. We are so excited about the ability of this tool to record what’s happening around our beautiful but changing Bay—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

We are looking for more observers to share photos of things they are seeing on the Bay all year long. If you are interested, you can join our Water Reporter network here.

Identifying the area of the Bay where you took the photo and categorizing the image with a hashtag, such as #algae, #pollution report, #trash, #wildlife, and #erosion, makes it easier for us to search for similar occurrences around the Bay.

Become a Water Reporter and report what you see on Casco Bay

Want to get outside, take photos that may help protect the health of Casco Bay, and connect with other community members?

We invite you to join our new volunteer Observing Network, Water Reporter, an exciting way to share what you see around the Bay.

In 2016 and 2017, we saw a concerning increase in the number and extent of nuisance and harmful algal blooms in Casco Bay. Large mats of algae covered tidal flats, smothering animals underneath the mats, preventing juvenile clams from settling, and increasing the acidity of the sediment.

This summer and fall, we continue to be on the lookout for nuisance, green algal outbreaks—and we need your help!

Join Water Reporter now.

For this project we are asking you to take photos of the Bay to document algal bloom events, water pollution and trash, shoreline erosion, and marine wildlife sightings. Through the Water Reporter app, your photos will be shared with Friends of Casco Bay, as well as with other observers. You will be able to see and comment on others’ posts and get an idea of what is going on around the Bay.

Each submission is displayed on a map and posted to individual, organization, and watershed feeds. To keep you in the loop, you will receive email notifications every time someone comments or takes action on your report.

In order to be a Water Reporter volunteer:

  • You will need a smartphone (iPhone or Android) or a tablet (iPad or Android tablet).
  • Create an account on the Water Reporter app and join the Friends of Casco Bay group.
  • Be willing to take photos of the Bay and share them on the app along with their location.
What you need to know:
  • Each photo you submit will provide a better understanding of conditions in the Bay.
  • Friends of Casco Bay is especially interested in tracking algal blooms as they occur, so if you come across one, be sure to share a photo along with the hashtag #algae.
  • For other reports please use hashtags like #trash #erosion #pollutionreport or #wildlife in the photo caption to improve search and categorization of your report for the community and Friends of Casco Bay.

What’s the big deal with green algae?

In the marine environment, nitrogen jumpstarts the growth of algae and phytoplankton, tiny plants that form the base of the ocean food chain, which in turn nurture zooplankton, clams, oysters, crabs, lobsters, fish, and whales. But too much nitrogen may trigger large blooms of nuisance algae or “green slime,” which can reduce water clarity and lower oxygen levels, making life harder for marine organisms. These nuisance algal blooms may be triggered by excess nitrogen from fertilizers, sewage, pet wastes, and emissions from tailpipes and smokestacks. For more information on excess nitrogen and green algae visit https://www.cascobay.org/our-work/science/nuisance-algal-bloom-tracking/.

We hope you will join our observing network and help us keep an eye on the Bay we all share and love!

Map of Water Reporter Observations

Out and About with the Casco Baykeeper

Out and About with the Casco Baykeeper

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.

January

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.

February

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.

Our Casco Baykeeper meets EPA Administrator Alex Dunn.

 

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.

March

Senator Angus King greets fellow Mainers Bill Mook, Hattie Train, Ivy Frignoca, and Richard Nelson.

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.

April

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.

May

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.

June

The Portland Water District (PWD) hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the massive, $12 million project that upgraded the aeration system at the East End Wastewater Treatment Facility. This improvement could ultimately reduce nitrogen in the treated sewage released into the Bay by up to 1000 lbs. a day! PWD’s General Manager Carrie Lewis recognized our contribution “to understanding the issues affecting Casco Bay and make positive contributions towards collaborative solutions.”

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.

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.

Friends of Casco Bay Testimony in Opposition to LD 1853: An Act To Ensure the Safe and Consistent Regulation of Pesticides throughout the State by Providing Exemptions to Municipal Ordinances That Regulate Pesticides

March 21, 2018

Senator Paul Davis
Representative Danny Martin
State and Local Government Committee
c/o Legislative Information Office 100 State House Station Augusta, ME 04333

Re: Friends of Casco Bay Testimony in Opposition to LD 1853: An Act To Ensure the Safe and Consistent Regulation of Pesticides throughout the State by Providing Exemptions to Municipal Ordinances That Regulate Pesticides

Dear Senator Davis, Representative Martin, and Distinguished Members of the State and Local Government Committee:

Please accept this letter as the testimony of Friends of Casco Bay in opposition to LD 1853: An Act To Ensure the Safe and Consistent Regulation of Pesticides throughout the State by Providing Exemptions to Municipal Ordinances That Regulate Pesticides. Friends of Casco Bay is a marine stewardship organization formed over a quarter century ago to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. Our work involves education, advocacy, water quality monitoring, and collaborative partnerships.

A year ago we submitted testimony similar to today’s testimony, opposing LD 1505: An Act To Create Consistency in the Regulation of Pesticides[1], a bill that would have eliminated municipal Home Rule to pass or implement pesticide-related ordinances. Although LD 1853 differs from LD 1505 by not explicitly referring to Home Rule, it implicitly guts it. LD 1853 provides that municipal pesticide ordinances cannot apply: (1) to commercial applicators and spray contracting firms or (2) to private applicators when the private applicators are producing agricultural or horticultural commodities. Horticulture means “the science and art of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants.”[2] Horticulture is: “[t]hat branch of agriculture concerned with growing plants that are used by people for food, for medicinal purposes, and for aesthetic gratification.”[3]

LD 1853 in essence removes the right of municipalities to pass pesticide ordinances for virtually any purpose. No ordinance can apply to commercial applicators. Nor can an ordinance apply to home applicators for basically any conceivable purpose, including weed-free lawns maintained for “aesthetic gratification.” For this reason, we respectfully request that this Committee unanimously recommend that LD 1853 ought not to pass, the same recommendation that it made for LD 1505.

PESTICIDES IN CASCO BAY

Our previous testimony, attached as Exhibit A, details the sampling Friends of Casco Bay conducted to detect the presence or absence of pesticides in stormwater that flows into Casco Bay. In summary, over 8 years, our research identified 10 different pesticides at 14 locations around the Bay. None of the pesticides are listed as safe for use in marine environments. For example, these six toxic pesticides were detected:

2, 4-D: banned in five countries, this herbicide is toxic to aquatic invertebrates and may be linked to non-Hodgkins lymphoma in humans.

Clopyralid: this herbicide has been linked to birth defects in animals.

Diazinon: banned from being sold to U.S. consumers but still legal for use, this insecticide has a high aquatic toxicity and is linked to reproductive problems.

Dicamba: found in groundwater throughout the U.S., this herbicide is toxic to fish and zooplankton.

MCPP: along with 2, 4-D, this herbicide is in the same family of chemicals as Agent Orange and is highly toxic to bay shrimp.

Propiconazole: this fungicide is a possible carcinogen.

Consistent with our mission to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay, we strongly believe these substances should not be discharged into our marine waters.

MAINE MUNCIPAL PESTICIDES ORDINANCES

The Maine Constitution grants Home Rule to municipalities.[4] Home Rule allows municipalities to exercise any power or function that the Legislature confers upon them, and that is not denied expressly or by clear implication.[5] With respect to pesticide ordinances, the Legislature requires a municipality to notify the Maine Board of Pesticide Control (BPC) when it intends to adopt an ordinance. In turn, the BPC must maintain a list of all municipal ordinances that specifically apply to pesticide storage, distribution or use.[6] Municipalities adopt ordinances through considerable public process.[7] For example, Friends of Casco Bay’s Executive Director, Cathy Ramsdell, served for nearly a year on a task force that helped Portland shape its recently enacted pesticide ordinance.[8]

As a result of this very thoughtful process, 29 of Maine’s nearly 500 municipalities have enacted ordinances that narrowly restrict pesticide use to meet local needs.[9] It should be noted that none of these municipal ordinances out-right ban the use of pesticides. Here are some examples relevant to Casco Bay:

Brunswick prohibits use or storage of most pesticides other than for households and agriculture within the aquifer protection zone. The town also prohibits aerial applications other than public health applications performed under the auspices of the Town or State.  Exceptions may be approved by Codes Enforcement Officer.

Harpswell prohibits the use of the insect growth regulators (IGRs) diflubenzuron and tebufenozide and the aerial application of all IGRs and any insecticide whose product label indicates that it is harmful to aquatic invertebrates. The town also restricts the use of neonicotinoid insecticides.

New Gloucester requires application to be consistent with DCAF standards.

Portland’s recently enacted ordinance will restrict the use of synthetic pesticides for all public and private turf, landscape, and outdoor pest management activities. The ordinance takes effect for City property on July 1, 2018 and for private property on January 1, 2019. There are provisions for emergency exemptions.

South Portland curtails the use of pesticides for turf, landscape and outdoor pest management.[10]

Research revealed no legal challenges to these ordinances. They stand as a proper application of Home Rule and as excellent examples of municipalities crafting more protective regulation than federal and state law to protect the health of local residents, natural resources, and environmental concerns. LD 1853 should not be allowed to eviscerate this proper and necessary exercise of Home Rule.

For the reasons set forth above and in our prior testimony, we reiterate our request that this Committee unanimously recommend that LD 1853 ought not to pass.

Respectfully,

Ivy L. Frignoca
Casco Baykeeper
Friends of Casco Bay

CC: Jennifer Hall, Clerk

 

[1] See Friends of Casco Bay Testimony Oppose LD 1505, https://www.cascobay.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/05012017-FOCB-Testimony-Oppose-LD-1505-Final.pdf

[2] Merriam Webster Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/horticulture.

[3] https://nifa.usda.gov/sites/default/files/resources/definition_of_specialty_crops.pdf.

[4] Maine Constitution, Art. VIII, pt. 2, § 1.

[5] CMP v. Town of Lebanon, 571 A.2d 1189, 1192 (ME 1990); 30-A MRSA § 3001.

[6] 22 MRSA § 1471-U.

[7] See e.g. 30-A MRSA §§ 3001 et seq.

[8] https://www.cascobay.org/2018/02/06/protecting-bay-pesticides/.

[9] http://www.maine.gov/dacf/php/pesticides/public/municipal_ordinances.shtml.

[10] Id.

After a rainstorm, millions of gallons of polluted stormwater pour into Casco Bay.

Support of LD 178: An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Provide Jobs, Improve Road Infrastructure and Protect Water Resources

January 9, 2018

Senator James Hamper
Representative Drew Gattine
Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs
c/o Office of Fiscal and Program Review
5 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333

Re: Friends of Casco Bay Testimony in Support of LD 178: An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Provide Jobs, Improve Road Infrastructure and Protect Water Resources

Dear Senator Hamper, Representative Gattine and Distinguished Members of the Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs,

Friends of Casco Bay submits this letter in support of LD 178: An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Provide Jobs, Improve Road Infrastructure and Protect Water Resources. We respectfully request that the committee unanimously recommend that LD 178 “Ought to Pass.”

Friends of Casco Bay is a nonprofit organization committed to protecting and improving the water quality of Casco Bay. We have several thousand members and volunteers who rely upon Casco Bay for their livelihoods, recreation, and solace. For over a quarter century, we have monitored the health of Casco Bay and advocated for solutions that eliminate or reduce nonpoint source pollution (NPS) to the Bay.

NPS pollution occurs when rain or snowmelt flows over land, picks up contaminants, and drains into waterways. NPS pollutants can include contaminated sediments, petroleum products from roads, fertilizers, pesticides, and other pollutants. Nonpoint source flows are the largest source of pollution to coastal Maine waters, and Casco Bay receives significant loads of NPS pollution.

Between 2001 and 2009, we collected rainwater flowing directly into the Bay and analyzed the samples for pesticides. Our goal was to determine “presence” or “absence” of pesticides. Lab results identified 10 different pesticides in 14 locations around the Bay.

In 2014, we collected samples from the mouth of the Presumpscot River during a dry weather flow, a medium rain event, and an intense rain event. In comparison to the dry weather flow, the intense rain event delivered large loads of bacteria, suspended solids, and nitrogen. E.coli during dry weather was detected in trace amounts. Right after the intense rain event, E.coli measured 170 colony forming units (CFU) per 100 ml*. Total suspended solids (TSS) during the dry event measured 3.6 mg/L. After intense rain, TSS measured 60 mg/L**. Total nitrogen measured at .32 mg/L during dry weather and increased to .70 mg/L after the intense rain event.***

The photo below shows a stormwater plume draining into Casco Bay with its brown load of sediment and other pollutants.

Presumscot River Creates a Brown Bay
Brown Rainwater Plume from Presumpscot River overlaying Casco Bay

“We do have issues when it rains,” Keri Kaczor, Maine Healthy Beaches Coordinator said in 2014. “We have a lot of water in Maine, with the rivers, the streams and the storm drains bringing pollutants from upland areas to the sea. When we have a wet beach season, we have problems.”****

LD 178:
This $5,000,000 bond will fund cost sharing of at least 50% on projects that correct downstream pollution issues through improved upstream stormwater management. Friends of Casco Bay supports this bond because, as our data show, Casco Bay is a downstream water that receives NPS pollution.

Most NPS pollution is not regulated under the Clean Water Act. Instead, Section 319 of the Act provides limited federal funding to reduce NPS pollution. That funding alone is insufficient. State funds must supplement it.

LD 178 fulfills that purpose; it provides funding to reduce upstream sources that negatively impact downstream receiving waters such as Casco Bay. Friends of Casco Bay respectfully requests that the Committee unanimously recommend that LD 178 “Ought to Pass.”

Thank you for considering our testimony.

Sincerely,

Ivy L. Frignoca
Casco Baykeeper
Friends of Casco Bay
CC: Marianne MacMaster

 

*E. coli is a specific species of fecal coliform bacteria. It is the best indicator of fecal pollution in fresh water. In
Maine, E. coli levels at designated swimming beaches should not exceed 104 CFU per 100 ml.

**Total suspended solids (TSS) measures the turbidity of the water. Suspended solids cause water to look milky or
muddy as light scatters from very small particles in the water.

*** For purposes of evaluating harmful impacts of nitrogen to marine waters, DEP considers .32 mg/L of nitrogen as
having the reasonable potential to negatively impact eelgrass habitat and .45 mg/L as having the reasonable potential
to negatively impact dissolved oxygen levels.

****https://bangordailynews.com/2014/06/26/news/state/maine-ranks-near-bottom-in-latest-national-study-of-beach-
water-quality/.

 

Ivy Frignoca, Casco Baykeeper

Support of LD 1510: An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue to Fund Wastewater Infrastructure Projects for Ratification by Voters

In many instances, the improvements needed to wastewater treatment facilities cost more than municipal taxpayers can bear. State and federal funds have traditionally supplemented and must continue to supplement municipal budgets to improve and protect water quality in compliance with the Clean Water Act.

Read more

Sewage Treatment Plant courtesy of Portland Water District

Historic Agreement to Cut Nitrogen by 20-40%

Sewage Treatment Plant courtesy of Portland Water District
Sewage Treatment Plant courtesy of Portland Water District

Imagine if we could remove 500 to 1,000 pounds of excess nitrogen from the Bay each day. An historic effort by Portland Water District may do just that!

After nearly a year of work, the Portland Water District and Friends of Casco Bay developed an agreement aimed at reducing nitrogen pollution from sewage effluent. The collaboration helped the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) develop a 139-page,
five-year permit for the City of Portland’s East End Wastewater Treatment Facility, which is managed by the Water District, that will better protect water quality. The permit was issued on March 22, 2017.

The $12 million upgrade to the plant’s aeration system may help reduce nitrogen in the plant’s effluent waters by 500 to 1,000 pounds each day!

The aim is to reduce nitrogen loading in the discharges from the plant by 20-40% within five years. This is the first wastewater discharge permit in Maine to address nitrogen levels and is now a model for other communities.

A History of Our Work to Reduce Nitrogen in Casco Bay
In 2007, Friends of Casco Bay helped persuade the Maine Legislature to pass a law requiring the Maine DEP to establish a limit on how much nitrogen may be discharged into coastal waters. Instead of following the Legislature’s lead, DEP has chosen to limit nitrogen permit by permit in Casco Bay. This had led Friends of Casco Bay to work with DEP, municipalities, and businesses, to help set realistic limits on nitrogen in Clean Water Act discharge permits issued to sewage treatment plants and industrial facilities.

We are working with the City of Portland on its Combined Sewer Overflow Remediation Project that will help reduce
nitrogen-laden sewage overflows into the Bay.

Our pumpout boat removes raw sewage—another source of nitrogen—from the holding tanks of recreational boats and transports, for onshore disposal. Contact pumpout [at] cascobay [dot] org.

Our BayScaping program works with residents and municipalities to help keep fertilizers and pesticides from polluting the Bay. We present BayScaping Socials to help neighbors reduce the use of lawn chemicals. With our support, South Portland passed an ordinance to restrict pesticide use, with an assurance to tackle fertilizers next. Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell served on the Portland Pesticide Task Force as that city considers a similar ordinance.

Working With . . . the Portland Water District

Friends of Casco Bay’s Ivy Frignoca and Portland Water District’s Scott Firmin forged an agreement that aims to significantly reduce nitrogen in the treated wastewater released into Casco Bay from Portland’s East End Wastewater Treatment Facility.

Major changes planned by the Portland Water District promise to help reduce the flow of nitrogen-laden wastewater in a big way. The effluent from 65,000 Portland residents, as well as visitors and commercial facilities in the city, passes through the East End Wastewater Treatment Plant. With a $12-million upgrade to the plant, the Portland Water District aims to reduce nitrogen in the effluent water by 20 to 40% within five years. That could prevent 500 to 1,000 pounds of nitrogen from getting into Casco Bay each day.

Nitrogen is found in sewage, animal waste, fertilizers, rainwater, snow melt, and air pollution from burning fossil fuels. Excess nitrogen in our coastal waters may lead to harmful algal blooms, slime-covered coves, and more acidic conditions, all of which stress our coastal critters.

Water District’s Director of Wastewater Services, worked diligently for nearly a year on an agreement to reduce nitrogen in treated wastewater from the East End sewage treatment plant. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection recently issued a five-year wastewater discharge permit for the plant that incorporates their recommendations. Friends of Casco Bay’s Ivy Frignoca and Portland Water District’s Scott Firmin forged an agreement that aims to significantly reduce nitrogen in the treated wastewater released into Casco Bay from Portland’s East End Wastewater Treatment Facility.

The Portland Water District plans to:

  • Work toward major reductions in nitrogen in the treated wastewater it releases into Casco Bay
  • Test nitrogen levels in its effluent water weekly to measure progress toward meeting the goal of a 20-40% reduction within five years
  • Collaborate with the City of Portland and other stakeholders in a coordinated effort to reduce nitrogen pollution from multiple sources

“We applaud the Portland Water District for its forward-thinking approach that may serve as a model for other Maine communities,” says Ivy. “We still need folks to pick up pet wastes and stop using fertilizers. Individual efforts help keep nitrogen pollution from getting into Casco Bay. What each of us does to help the Bay does make a difference!”