We look forward to Water Reporter posts continuing to come in throughout the fall and winter, when we will be on the lookout for any unusual algal blooms, effects of large rainstorms or snowstorms on the Bay, and extreme high tides, called King Tides. The more of us who are keeping watch on the health of the Bay, the better protected our waters may be.
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.
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.
We launched our Water Reporter Observing Network in July. Since then, our volunteer Water Reporters have been reporting the good, the bad, and the ugly of what they have been seeing out on the Bay. Here are some recent examples:
We depend on our ever-expanding network of Water Reporters to help us keep an eye on the Bay:
- reporting problems, such as pollution or outbreaks of nuisance algal blooms,
- commenting on daily changes in the Bay from tides to the character of the water, and
- sharing the beauty of the Bay and its diverse plant and animal life.
Water Reporter is a worldwide social network that connects individuals with organizations like ours that are actively working to protect and improve water quality.
By using the Water Reporter app on their smartphones or tablets, Volunteers provide an instant record of their observation with a photo, the location, and the time. We can then use the app to respond and let you know what actions we took.
The Water Reporter app is an awesome way to record what is happening around our beautiful but changing Bay.
If you aren’t a Water Reporter already, we invite you to join Friends of Casco Bay’s Observing Network at cascobay.org/water-reporter. Each submission is displayed on a map, which can be seen on the sign-up page. Friends of Casco Bay Staff is notified of sightings. You can find your own posts, and you can see and comment on what others are observing around the Bay.
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.
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.
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.
Watch this short video about the Cage of Science!
You may know that Friends of Casco Bay’s Continuous Monitoring Station—AKA our “Cage of Science”—gives us vital data about the health of the Bay. But did you also know that observations of what sea life is growing on and hanging out in the station also give us important information about conditions of our waters? In this video, Research Associate Mike Doan shows us some of the sea critters that visited the Cage of Science in August.
Pop quiz: Can you figure out which of these photos is of Casco Bay?
The correct answer is B—but on any given day or part of the Bay, Casco Bay could look like any of these three pictures.
Why does it matter? Water color can be an important indicator of the environmental health of our waters.
For example, the bluish-green water from Casco Bay in the middle photo above was measured as 6 on the Forel-Ule scale. This tells us that the water color is dominated by phytoplankton, but also that some dissolved matter and some sediment may be present, which is typical for areas towards the open sea.
Image A is of water in the Caribbean and is a 2 on the scale—indigo blue with high light penetration. These waters have often low nutrient levels and low production of biomass.
Image C is from Lake Michigan and is a 18 on the scale. Brownish green to cola brown colors indicate waters with an extremely high concentrations of organic and inorganic compounds, which are typical for rivers and estuaries.
You and Friends of Casco Bay have joined a worldwide effort to better understand how our waters may be changing—by observing water color. The images above are photos taken by volunteers like you and have become part of a worldwide catalog of water color.
Since we launched our Color by Numbers pilot project using the EyeOnWater app three months ago, 178 people have signed up to measure the color of Casco Bay. The map of Casco Bay below shows where volunteers have taken 387 color measurements on their smartphones and tablets.
You are helping us learn more about the environmental health of Casco Bay. The data you collect, using the EyeOnWater app on your smartphone, will become part of a worldwide catalog of water color. The more measurements collected, the more our understanding of the Bay improves.
We look forward to keeping you posted about what we are learning.
For even more about the effort, see:
News Center Maine’s story about Color by Numbers: https://www.newscentermaine. com/article/news/local/this- app-is-changing-the-way- mainers-can-detect-water- pollution/97-581638282/
Maine Public’s coverage: http://www. mainepublic.org/post/ smartphone-app-s-helping- beachgoers-help-casco-bay# stream/0
As you may know, Friends of Casco Bay has joined a worldwide effort to better understand how our waters may be changing—by observing water color.
Since we launched our Color by Numbers pilot project three months ago, 178 of you have signed up to measure the color of Casco Bay. The map of Casco Bay above shows where you have taken 387 color measurements on your smartphones and tablets.
For more than a century, marine scientists have used the Forel-Ule color scale—an index of 21 colors—from blue to greenish blue to yellow to brown—to measure color as a revealing indicator of the health of our oceans, and to document the color of oceans and lakes.
Scientists at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Boothbay Harbor have observed that the water color of the Gulf of Maine has become yellower over the last century. They are concerned that this color shift may be caused by suspended particles, which can block sunlight that marine plants need to grow, and which may transport pollutants from the land.
Until we launched Color by Numbers, not much color data had been collected in Casco Bay.
Thank you for helping us all learn more about the environmental health of Casco Bay! The more measurements collected, the more our understanding of the Bay improves.
We look forward to keeping you posted about what we are learning.
On July 1, Portland’s Pesticide Use Ordinance goes into effect for public properties. (In January, 2019, restrictions on applying synthetic pesticides on private property will go into effect.)
We asked City Arborist Jeff Tarling how the Parks Department may manage the City’s 721 acres of parks, playgrounds, trails, fields, and cemeteries differently. “This ordinance gives our staff opportunities to manage nature respectfully, to preserve and adapt to nature, rather than trying to control it.” Mowing high, replacing lawn with meadow, and planting native shrubs and trees are actions Jeff recommends for public and private properties.
Removing invasive plants mechanically, not chemically, is a hands-on approach Jeff endorses. Jeff showed Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell a long row of native trees and shrubs that students from King Middle School had just planted as a coastal buffer along the Back Cove parking lot. As he talked, he couldn’t resist pulling out invasive bittersweet that was overtaking other vegetation along the path.
Jeff explained that the Parks Department has assembled a “watch list” of invasive plants in their parks, which they plan to remove by hand over time, not by spraying with pesticides.
Cathy was a member of the task force that helped to shape the pesticide ordinance. She says, “As the whole community becomes more aware of the need to reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers, it will reduce the likelihood that lawn chemicals will move off the landscape and into the Bay.”