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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!”

MOCA Partners

Working With . . . MOCA Partners

MOCA Partners
The Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership (MOCA) is asking – and answering – the hard questions: “Why is ocean acidification happening?” and “What can we do about it?”

Climate researchers have found that the ocean absorbs about 25% to 30% of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from smokestacks and tailpipes. When this excess carbon dioxide mixes with water, it can make the water more acidic. This is called ocean acidification.

More excess carbon dioxide can end up in coastal waters as a result of nitrogen pollution from fertilizers, stormwater runoff, and sewage. This nitrogen overdose stimulates a population explosion of tiny plants called phytoplankton. When these plants die and decay, bacteria consume oxygen and release carbon dioxide in bays and coves. This creates even more acidic conditions for coastal critters. This is called coastal acidification.

Coastal acidification is one more stressor for shellfish species already challenged by other impacts, such as predation by milky ribbon worms and gluttonous green crabs that flourish in warming waters. Red tides and other harmful algal blooms, exacerbated by nitrogen runoff, may close clam flats to shellfish harvesting for weeks or months.

In 2014, Friends of Casco Bay participated in the Maine Ocean Acidification Study Commission, which issued a report to the Legislature in January 2015, recommending many actions to confront this threat to our fisheries, including establishing an ocean and coastal acidification council. Efforts in 2015 to pass a law creating the council failed to garner government support.

Rather than letting a worthwhile idea die, Friends of Casco Bay, the Island Institute, and University of Maine/Maine Sea Grant formed the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership (MOCA) to coordinate the efforts of government agencies, private organizations, and citizens. Since its first meeting in March 2016, MOCA has held two symposia, organized working groups, and met with coastal legislators.

Outreach events and coordinated water monitoring are planned for 2017.

What can you do about coastal acidification?

  • Eliminate the use of fertilizers on your property
  • Make sure your septic system is doing its job
  • Reduce carbon emissions by driving less
  • Support clean energy policies
  • Opt for meatless Mondays – or more. Eating vegan reduces greenhouse gases significantly
  • Find out more actions you can take at here.
Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca and Portland Water District Staff on Baykeeper Boat

A Major Step Toward a Cleaner Casco Bay

Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca and Portland Water District Staff on Baykeeper BoatExcess nitrogen in our coastal waters can lead to harmful algal blooms, slime-covered coves, and more acidic conditions, all of which stress our coastal critters. Where does it come from? Sewage, animal waste, fertilizers, rainwater, snowmelt, and air pollution.

What we flush down the toilets of 65,000 Portland residents, as well as what is flushed through visitor and commercial facilities, passes through the sewage treatment plant that the Portland Water District manages. That treated effluent is a major source of excess nitrogen to Casco Bay.

With a $12 million upgrade to the East End Wastewater Treatment Facility, the Portland Water District aims to reduce nitrogen in effluent water by 20-40% within five years. This effort may prevent 500 to 1,000 pounds of nitrogen from getting into Casco Bay each day.

Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca and Scott Firmin, Portland Water District’s Director of Wastewater Services, worked diligently for nearly a year on an agreement to reduce nitrogen in the treated wastewater from the East End wastewater treatment plant. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection incorporated their recommendations into a five-year wastewater discharge permit it recently issued for the East End 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 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. “But we still need folks to pick up pet wastes and stop using fertilizers. Those individual efforts help keep nitrogen pollution from getting into Casco Bay. What each of us does to help the Bay does make a difference!”

MOCA Partners

MOCA is on the Move

With increasing research showing that coastal acidification is a threat to Casco Bay, here’s what we’re doing about it.

The all-volunteer Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership (MOCA) has held two symposia, organized working groups, and met with coastal legislators, all in its first year.

Why do scientists and sea farmers worry about acidifying seawater? Studies by researcher Dr. Mark Green and oyster grower Bill Mook have found that increasing the acidity of seawater can stress sea creatures such as clams, oysters, and mussels. Some shellfish farmers in Maine have already begun storing seawater to use during times when stormwater runoff makes the water unsafe for developing oysters.

Climate researchers have found that the ocean absorbs over 25% of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by smokestacks and tailpipes. This is called ocean acidification. In addition, carbon dioxide ends up in coastal waters from nitrogen pollution from fertilizers, pet wastes, stormwater runoff, and sewage discharges. This nitrogen overdose stimulates a population explosion of tiny phytoplankton. When these plants die and decay in bays and coves, bacteria consume oxygen and release carbon dioxide. This creates even more acidic conditions for coastal critters. This is called coastal acidification.

Dr. Mark Green of St. Joseph’s College in Standish, Maine, is a leading researcher on the impact of coastal acidification on clams. He has been testing how baby clams respond to mud from clam flats along our coast, including Casco Bay. He calls clams the “canaries in the coal mine.” Nitrogen runoff, he asserts, is hampering the ability of clams and oysters to build and maintain their shells. Dr. Green found that clam spat and baby clams simply dissolve at levels of acidity found in some parts of Casco Bay today. He calls this unfortunate condition “death by dissolution.”

Dr. Green’s experiments in the lab inspired us to investigate conditions in Casco Bay. In 2011, we sampled the pH (acidity) of the mud on about 30 clam flats around Casco Bay. In 2012 and 3013, we returned to one of those clam flats to monitor conditions every two weeks across three seasons and varied tide cycles to get a better understanding of how natural fluctuations impacted pH. We also put baby clams (spat) into “clam condos” into a clam flat in Freeport, protected from green clams by screens. After one week and two weeks in the mud, we found significant pitting in their shells, indicating that the shells were dissolving.

Coastal Acidification is one more stressor for shellfish species that already are challenged by other climate change impacts, such as predation by gluttonous milky ribbon worms and green crabs which flourish in warming waters. Red tides or other harmful algal blooms may close clam flats to shellfish harvesting for weeks or months each year. The density and duration of these harmful bloom events may be exacerbated by nitrogen runoff, which provides the nutrients to nourish the red tide organisms.

 

What are we doing about coastal acidification?

 

The good news is that we can do something to fight back against coastal acidification caused by nitrogen pollution. Says Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca, “It’s wonderful to work with so many scientists, harvesters, and policy makers who understand this issue and are working on it before coastal acidification becomes insurmountable.”

 

One way is to find out what we know and what we need to know about coastal and ocean acidification. Friends of Casco Bay and others realized we need a concerted effort to fight the effects of ocean and coastal acidification. In 2014, we participated in the Maine Ocean Acidification Study Commission, which issued a report to the Legislature in January 2015, recommending many actions to confront this threat to our fisheries and marine ecology in general, including establishing an on-going ocean and coastal acidification council.

 

Friends of Casco Bay worked with the Island Institute and University of Maine/Maine Sea Grant to create the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership (MOCA). MOCA volunteers partnership seek to:

  1. Implement recommendations of the Ocean Acidification Study Commission; and
  2. Coordinate the work of governmental agencies, private organizations, and citizens who are studying and implementing means to reduce the impacts of or help adapt to ocean and coastal acidification.

Here are some highlights of MOCA:

March 14, 2016

MOCA held its first meeting, attended by more than 30 scientists, policy makers, and harvesters.

 

June 29, 2016

MOCA hosted a day-long Ocean Acidification Symposium, attended by 110 people, including some of the state’s top researchers and policy makers. Scientists shared their field experiment data and compared notes.

 

November 16, 2016

MOCA hosted a second symposium focused on remediation and policy. More than 50 people gathered at the State House in Augusta to discuss the possibility of developing state/ federal water quality criteria related to coastal acidification. Ivy discussed how we might use existing regulatory tools to reduce nitrogen pollution that exacerbates coastal acidification. The participants formed subcommittees to create an action plan on next steps for confronting ocean acidification through research and legislation.

 

What’s next?

  • Education Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca is working with the MOCA Policy Subcommittee to help organize two MOCA symposia in 2017. They will educate interested citizens and decision makers on cutting-edge science and local and state policies that may be implemented to combat acidification
  • Uniform data collection is the goal of Friends of Casco Bay Research Associate Mike Doan and more than a dozen other scientists on the MOCA Monitoring Subcommittee. They will work together to coordinate and standardize monitoring equipment and procedures on data collection on acidification. This uniformity will provide better understanding of nitrogen inputs into coastal waters.

 

What can you do about coastal acidification?

  • Cut down or eliminate fertilizers on lawns, gardens, and farms.
  • Lobby for and support a town ordinance to limit the use of nitrogen-rich fertilizers.
  • Reduce rainwater runoff and improve sewage treatment.
  • Make sure septic systems are doing their job.
  • Join and/or volunteer with organizations to monitor coastal waters and educate the public.
  • Reduce carbon emissions by driving less or driving a less polluting vehicle
  • Support clean energy production such as solar and wind power
  • Support clean energy policies such as RGGI and the Clean Power Plan
Pile of expired flares

A bill with flair makes its way through the Maine Legislature

Pile of expired flares

Last summer, Representative Jay McCreight* received a question from a local lobsterman about what to do with a barn full of expired marine flares or “Visual Distress Signals.” She called Friends of Casco Bay to ask about the potential environmental impacts from flares. Citizen Stewards Coordinator Peter Milholland and Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca began looking into the issue, with the help of University of New England student interns Iliana Flefel and Grayson Szczepaniak.

The United States Coast Guard requires marine vessels greater than 16 feet in length to carry at least three flares to use in the event of an emergency. These emergency flares expire within 42 months from date of manufacture and must be replaced.

This has led mariners to stockpile expired flares, often for years, trying to figure out how to get rid of them. Right now, there are no good options for Maine boaters to dispose of expired flares, which can still be explosive. Boaters have tried soaking expired flares in a bucket of water, shooting off flares at sea (especially on the Fourth of July), or throwing them in the trash. None of these practices are acceptable because pyrotechnic flares are classified as “hazardous wastes.”

Flares contain toxic chemicals that may harm human and marine life. Potassium perchlorate interferes with thyroid function, which regulates a person’s metabolism, including heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. Strontium may create toxic gases when burned. Sulfur has been shown to contribute to more acidic conditions in the ocean.

We learned that the only safe way to dispose of expired flares is by incineration at high temperature. Fortunately, the State Fire Marshall’s office has an EPA-approved mobile incinerator that can be used for this purpose, which was originally purchased to incinerate fireworks.

To authorize the State Fire Marshall’s office to design a program to collect and incinerate expired flares, Representative McCreight has introduced a bill to the 128th Maine Legislature: LD 252 An Act To Improve Safety in the Disposal of Expired Flares.

On March 13, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca testified before the Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety in support of the bill.

Should LD 252 continue to move through the legislative process, we may suggest you contact your legislators to support the bill.

 

* The State Representative for District 51, which includes Harpswell, West Bath, and part of Brunswick

Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca uses science and policy to protect our Bay

Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca uses science and policy to protect our Bay

Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca uses science and policy to protect our Bay
Ivy Frignoca collects a water sample from Casco Bay on her first scientific research trip aboard the R/V Joseph E. Payne, in January 2016. Photo by Kevin Morris

“Challenging” is how Ivy Frignoca describes the grueling, seven-hour interview process for the position of Casco Baykeeper. “The Baykeeper Search Advisory Committee clearly put a lot of thought into all the attributes they wanted in the next Baykeeper.” Since joining the staff of Friends of Casco Bay in January 2016, Ivy has clearly demonstrated that she has quite enough stamina, commitment, and passion for the job!

In her first few months, she helped defeat a bad bill before the Legislature that would have weakened Maine’s Oil Spill Prevention Law, and met with coastal legislators to discuss pending marine-related bills. Ivy also met with Portland officials and the Portland Water District to discuss ways to deal with stormwater pollution. Ivy conducted many media interviews to highlight her focus on continuing Friends of Casco Bay’s work to reduce water pollution and to study and address climate change in our community.

Ivy helped advance statewide efforts to confront ocean acidification by working with others to create the all-volunteer Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership, to coordinate the work of government agencies, academic institutions, resource harvesters, and nonprofit organizations that are studying ways to reduce the impact of— and how to adapt to—the changing chemistry of our ocean. They have put together a work plan and have been meeting to address how lower pH of sea water is affecting our shellfisheries and the overall health of our coastal waters.

Before Ivy came on board with Friends of Casco Bay, she worked on issues confronting our waters as an attorney at Conservation Law Foundation. Prior to moving to the Casco Bay region 26 years ago, she taught marine biology and ecology, interpreted natural history for park visitors, and advocated on behalf of Vermont state parks and forests.

Cathy Ramsdell, a leader with a plethora of skills to protect the Bay

Cathy Ramsdell, a leader with a plethora of skills to protect the Bay

Cathy Ramsdell, a leader with a plethora of skills to protect the BayIn 2015, Cathy Ramsdell, Executive Director and Casco Baykeeper Pro Tem, was featured in an exhibit at the Portland Public Library on women in maritime commerce, Staying the Course: Working Women of Portland’s Waterfront.

Cathy Ramsdell never imagined as a girl growing up in Belfast, Maine, as the first four-year Maine graduate of College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, as a CPA in Boston and Bangor, or as a private consultant to various entities over the years, that she would finally put down roots in southern Maine. Cathy has been the Executive Director for Friends of Casco Bay since 2003, half of the
organization’s 27-year history.

In 2015, in addition to dealing with the fiscal and managerial challenges of running a nonprofit with a full-time staff of 9 and more than 200 volunteers, she accepted the role of Casco Baykeeper Pro Tem. Cathy divided her time between board rooms and our Baykeeper boat, exploring ways to combat threats to the Bay from stormwater pollution and climate change.

Cathy was instrumental in helping to pass groundbreaking ordinances in Portland. She served on the City of Portland’s Green Packaging Taskforce. Two years of meetings resulted in two ordinances to reduce waste through a 5-cent fee on single-use shopping bags and a ban on polystyrene packaging (e.g., Styrofoam). In effect since April 2015, these ordinances have become models for other Maine communities. Cathy also worked with Portland officials to help draft a Stormwater Service Utility Fee to find a way to share the cost of upgrading the City’s sewer systems and stormwater protections more equitably.

At the state level, Cathy worked with both industry and environmental groups to pass a law phasing out plastic microbeads, used in personal care products like facial scrubs and toothpaste. These can pass through water treatment plants and may be ingested by fish and shellfish—and seafood lovers. Maine and other states passed bans that led to a federal law banning microplastics in
December 2015.

Out & About with the Casco Baykeeper October 2016

January 4th, 2016, was Ivy Frignoca’s first day as Casco Baykeeper. Had Ivy kept a diary of the highlights of her year to date, it might have read like this — in abbreviated version, of course!

 

Out and About with the Casco BaykeeperJanuary

Casco Baykeeper Boat trip
Taking our partners out on the Bay provides them with a different
perspective on problems that affect the health of Casco Bay.
Photo courtesy: Beth and Steve Westra

1/11: Gave my first presentation about Friends of Casco Bay, to the Board of Portland Water District
1/20: Submitted testimony to help defeat a bad bill that would have weakened Maine’s Oil Discharge Prevention and Pollution Control law
1/27: Spoke at our Volunteer Appreciation Celebration & Annual Members Meeting. What a warm reception!
All Month Met many people, went to many meetings, spoke with many reporters!

 

February

2/2: Started assembling the documentation of Portland’s stormwater and sewer separation project, going back over 25 years. This history will help inform our position, as Portland’s sewer remediation project plans continue to change
2/18: Chatted with the Coastal Caucus, a group of 25 legislators with marine interests, to update them on issues we are working on
2/22: Turned in my first Operating Plan as Baykeeper to Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell, describing my work plan for the coming fiscal year, beginning in 5 weeks. It filled 10 single spaced pages!

 

March

3/4: Gave a presentation on Microplastics in the Marine Environment at Fishermen’s Forum
3/14: Convened the first meeting of Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership (MOCA), along with Island Institute and Maine Sea Grant. More than 30 scientists and harvesters came. We had to get out more chairs!

 

April

4/8: Cathy and I toured the East End Sewage Treatment Plant in Portland. We are working to ensure that levels of nitrogen are addressed in Portland Water District’s discharge permit renewal application to EPA.
4/20: Discussed aquaculture and property rights with Brunswick Marine Resources Officer Dan Devereux. Brunswick is considering an ordinance on permitting aquaculture on clam flats
4/22: Cheered on efforts to keep cigarette butts out of Casco Bay at a press conference celebrating the installation of Sidewalk Buttlers on DiMillo’s Wharf

 

May

5/20: Participated in a meeting of the Portland Harbor Brownfield Commission about options for how and where accumulated mud around the piers can be disposed of in the most environmental and economical way
5/24: Helped organize a “Clam Summit” for aquaculture resource managers, state and local officials, and clammers, to explain state law regarding siting of aquaculture operations in the intertidal zone

 

June

6/1: Arrived at Waterkeeper Alliance Conference in Wilmington, NC, to spend four days with a diverse and inspiring group of Waterkeepers
6/28: Collaborated on revitalizing New Meadows Watershed Partnership to find an equitable, longlasting solution to the poor water quality that causes huge algae blooms, low oxygen, and even fish kills in the upper New Meadows River
6/29: Helped plan and host the Ocean Acidification Symposium, attended by 110 scientists, graduate students, and policy makers. Can’t believe we organized this event with 15 speakers only 3 months after launching MOCA!

 

July

7/5: Oil spill reconnaissance with state officials who manage oil spill response, along with Citizen Stewards Coordinator Peter Milholland, to identify ecologically-sensitive wetlands and beaches around the Bay that would be most vulnerable to effects of an oil spill
7/7: Cathy reported seeing green slime in Back Cove. We will all keep any eye on that!
7/11: Was the public face for our Nabbing Nitrogen day of action to collect valuable data and shine the public spotlight on Nitrogen Pollution. “Shining” it was not, but 97 volunteers didn’t seem to mind the rain.
7/18: CAD Cell Working Group met to identify possible sites for a Confined Aquatic Disposal cell, “the least worst option” for disposing of dredged sediments from around Portland’s working waterfront
7/27: Cathy and I spent time on the Baykeeper boat with Portland City Manager John Jennings and staff from Portland’s Water Resources Division and Portland Water District. We did a boat tour of the combined sewer outflows along the waterfront and the commercial wharves that need to be dredged. We urged they coordinate their planning for both projects to achieve a long-term solution that will result in less polluted stormwater flowing into the Bay and prevent polluted sediments from obstructing boat access to the piers again.

August

8/2 Taught a class on marine science to non-science majors at Southern Maine Community College. They asked the best
questions!
8/5 (and almost daily since) Scoped out Back Cove, Mill Creek, and other mudflats where green slime has been reported. We are seeing firsthand how a blanket of green algae is spreading like a plague in a sci-fi movie. Baby clams underneath the green goo are coming out of the mud, clearly distressed.

September

9/7 Peter Milholland and I participated in a tabletop oil spill response exercise, with staff members from EPA, Coast Guard, and oil terminals, discussing roles and responses to a simulated spill, in preparation for a full-scale exercise in June 2017.

Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca and Portland Water District Staff on Baykeeper Boat

Baykeeping by sea and by land

Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca and Portland Water District Staff on Baykeeper BoatSince Ivy Frignoca became Casco Baykeeper in January, she has taken full advantage of Friends of Casco Bay’s most visible asset: our Baykeeper boat, the Joseph E. Payne. It has become her platform to advocate to stop raw sewage from flowing into the Bay, plan for oil spill readiness, consider various dredging issues in Portland Harbor, renew efforts to improve water quality in the New Meadows River embayment, and confront coastal and ocean acidification.

In her first week on the job, Ivy joined our science staff on a 75-mile circuit around the Bay, helping to sample water quality. In the months since, she has invited many of our partners aboard the Baykeeper boat to examine issues from a different perspective. As Ivy says, “Many of our concerns are best understood from the water.”

Portland Harbor

Oil spills: Ivy recognized immediately that oil spill response would be one of her top priorities. “Even though there has not been a major oil spill since the Julie N in 1996, it’s important that we remain prepared as a community.”

Friends of Casco Bay will be participating in an oil spill response “table top exercise” in September with the US Coast Guard and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Oil Spill Response Team, and in a full scale exercise in 2017.

Ivy, Peter Milholland (who coordinates volunteers who assist in the event of a spill), and Maine DEP staff toured the harbor to identify sensitive wetlands and beaches on islands that are most likely to be affected by a spill. “In this way, we can gather relevant information and be prepared to assist the Coast Guard and clean-up experts if a spill does occur, by alerting them about ecologically sensitive areas that we should try to protect.”

Toxic pollution around the wharves: Early industries along the Fore River dumped their waste into Portland Harbor. Polluted rainwater still flows into the harbor from combined sewer pipes along Commercial Street. Sediments, which may contain toxins that harm marine life, are carried downstream by stormwater and have silted in many of the berthing spaces between Portland’s wharves. At low tide, mud appears around many of the piers. Wharf owners must dredge to restore the working waterfront, but what should they do with these toxic sediments?

One option is to bury them in a deep, secure hole in the Fore River, an approach called Confined Aquatic Disposal cell or CAD cell.

Sewage overflows: While the City of Portland has been working to reduce sewage overflows elsewhere in the city, there are no plans currently to remove the Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) along Commercial Street. It’s possible that after being dredged, the wharves could again become silted from stormwater debris.

So what is the solution? Talking, for a start. The Baykeeper, along with Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell, escorted Portland City Manager Jon Jennings and staff members from Portland’s Water Resources Division and Portland Water District on a waterside tour of CSOs and commercial piers. The boat trip marked the start of a new era of integrated planning.

“Working together to eliminate CSOs, clear out toxic sediments, and ensure best use of the city’s wastewater treatment system will improve the health of the Bay, upgrade the working waterfront for mariners, and eliminate smelly discharges for tourists walking along the waterfront. The goal is to help different sectors of City government develop more unified solutions that make the most sense financially and, more importantly, improve the health of the Bay.”

Eastern Casco Bay: In June, Ivy accompanied Brunswick Marine Resources Officer Dan Devereaux on the Brunswick police boat to consider ways to improve water quality in the eastern end of the Bay. Two causeways, built to connect Brunswick and West Bath, have restricted tidal flow in the upper regions of the New Meadows River so that they are no long free-flowing, creating saltwater lagoons known locally as the “Lakes.” The lack of tidal exchange results in massive jellyfish and algae blooms, extremely low oxygen levels in summer, and occasional fish kills. The bottom is coated with a layer of black, anoxic mud which makes the water devoid of oxygen during much of the summer.

Dan and Ivy discussed ways to revitalize the dormant New Meadows Watershed Partnership to find a solution that might be restorative, fair, and enduring. The New Meadows area is being looked at as a site for aquaculture ventures, while it is becoming increasingly polluted.

Ivy also has brought together interested parties to discuss aquaculture in the intertidal flats. Friends of Casco Bay, in conjunction with Manomet, organized a workshop for resource managers, state and local officials, clammers, and residents to explain state law regarding siting of aquaculture operations in the intertidal zone.

Baykeeping by land

Of course, Ivy has attended and organized dozens of other meetings on land. Three months into her job, Ivy, along with Susie Arnold of the Island Institute and Esperanza Stancioff of Maine Sea Grant, convened the first meeting of the Maine Ocean & Coastal Acidification (MOCA) Partnership to respond to one of the most pernicious but least understood effects of climate change: acidifying ocean and coastal waters. Three months later, they helped organize and host more than 100 scientists, graduate students, and policy makers at a day-long symposium. They invited 15 speakers to share the most recent data and to lay the groundwork for constructing an action plan for dealing with coastal and ocean acidification.

In her first 7 months on the job, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca has jumped in with both feet to champion many initiatives, continuing the fine tradition of collaborative problem-solving established by Friends of Casco Bay over a quarter century ago.