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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
“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.”****
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.
Ivy L. Frignoca
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.
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
Friends of Casco Bay’s Board members are key partners in protecting Casco Bay.
Here’s how, in their own words:
Peter Dufour: “We want our legacy to be getting rid of cigarette butts.”
CPA Peter Dufour and his wife Kelly have an office overlooking Commercial Street in Portland. “Cigarette butts are everywhere in the city. The whole sidewalk in front of the bars is littered with cigarette butts.”
Friends of Casco Bay connected them with Mike Roylos, creator of Sidewalk Buttlers, metal cylinders that hold discarded cigarette butts that are later recycled. Peter and Kelly funded five new Sidewalk Buttlers along Commercial Street, enough to keep 20,000 butts a year out of the Bay. The devices (shown below) hang on lampposts, within easy reach of patrons leaving the bars and restaurants.
You can see how other community members are partnering with us to protect the Bay on our Community Connection page.
Invite us to give a presentation to your community
Contact Mary Cerullo: mcerullo [at] cascobay [dot] org or (207) 799-8574. Topics include:
The Health of Casco Bay: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Friends of Casco Bay works year-round on threats to clean water, such as sewage overflows, oil spills, and ocean acidification, as well as green slime, red tides, and dead zones triggered by nitrogen pollution from fertilizers and stormwater runoff. Get an update on the health of our coastal waters and learn how Casco Bay is changing.
Save the Steamers! How coastal acidification is killing our clams
Why are shellfish disappearing in parts of Casco Bay where they were once plentiful? Some clam flats are becoming more acidic, clammers can no longer find clams in traditional harvesting areas, and aquaculturists are seeing seed clams dissolve. What’s up with that?
Casco Bay Begins in Your Backyard: How to have a green yard and a blue bay
After finding pesticides and fertilizers flowing into the Bay, Friends of Casco Bay launched BayScaping, a lawn care program that doesn’t rely on toxic chemicals. Find out why our ocean-based organization is working with neighboring communities to limit or stop their use of pesticides and fertilizers on land.
Fighting Plastic Pollution
Most of are aware that plastic products can harm seabirds, dolphins, whales, and sea turtles, when they mistake plastic bags for food or become entangled in fishing gear. Now people are learning that the smallest form of plastics—microbeads—are having an unexpected impact. Microbeads can be found in shaving cream, facial scrubs, and cosmetics. They are so tiny that when they wash down the drain, they can go right through our wastewater treatment plants and into streams and rivers, and end up in our coastal waters. Microbeads absorb toxic chemicals and are ingested by shellfish, causing a health risk to humans. What can be done to stop plastic pollution? Lots!
Nabbing Nitrogen: Help Us Test the Health of the Bay
If you’d like to be a citizen scientist for a day, join us for an hour on the morning of Sunday, July 10, 2016. We plan to mobilize volunteers to help us learn more about nitrogen levels in Casco Bay. Volunteers will collect water samples at sites around Portland Harbor and bring them to designated collection sites to be sent to a lab for analysis. We will use this day of action—and the results—to educate people about Nitrogen Pollution, help the Maine Department of Environmental Protection collect valuable data, and shine the public spotlight on an issue too few understand. Find out how you can help!
Cover photo by: Dennis Welsh
1.) Did you know that what we put on our lawns is showing up in Casco Bay?
In the summer of 2005, Mike Doan, Research Associate at Friends of Casco Bay, opened an envelope and gasped. Before him appeared a table of laboratory numbers, an analysis of a sample of stormwater Mike had collected a month earlier, from the end of a pipe in Back Cove. The readings for 2,4-D, a primary component in weed and feed products, were at the highest levels he’d seen yet in stormwater samples. This herbicide has been classified by the World Health Organization as a possible carcinogen.
The sampling was part of our work in BayScaping, our effort to document that lawn chemicals are going into Casco Bay and to educate residents about strategies for achieving a chem-free lawn. Between 2001 and 2009, we collected rain water flowing into the Bay and analyzed the samples for a suite of pesticides. Lab results identified 7 different pesticides in 13 locations all around the Bay.
Now several municipalities are considering ordinances to restrict or ban pesticides and fertilizers. We are sharing our data and point out that fertilizers are of equal concern.
2.) Do you know why it shucks to be a clam?
When it rains, nitrogen-laden fertilizers are swept into Maine’s nearshore waters. This nitrogen pollution triggers algae blooms that release carbon dioxide when they die and decay. In seawater, carbon dioxide forms an acid. Acidification changes the chemistry of the water, inhibits shell growth in clams, mussels, oysters and other marine organisms, and is suspected as a cause of reproductive disorders in some fish.
We are encouraging communities to consider banning high-nitrogen fertilizers and weed and feed products, which contain both pesticides and fertilizers. Limiting or eliminating the use of fertilizers locally will lower the amount of nitrogen coming in to Casco Bay; this can help slow the devastating effects acidification is having on our marine resources. We are also working on several other projects to reduce nitrogen pollution from sewage discharges and stormwater runoff.
3.) Did you know that discarded hypodermic needles are regularly found on our beaches and marshes?
“Yipes! Here’s another needle!” That is a shout we frequently hear at our beach cleanups. Citizen Stewards Coordinator Peter Milholland rushes over, warning the volunteers not to pick up the discarded hypodermic needles. He uses rubber gloves and tongs to dislodge the needles from the sand or salt marsh. He places them a Sharps disposal kit—basically a plastic box that can hold medical waste—to drop off later at a safe disposal site.
Even though insulin users may use sharps several times a day, the only officially recommended way that residents can dispose of them is to place them in a rigid container, such as a liquid laundry soap container, and toss them in the garbage. When these containers end up in a landfill, they may break open and spill their contents. Many users simply flush them down the toilet. When it rains, overflows of the sewage treatment system can wash the needles into the Bay.
If you should find a sharp, do NOT pick up it up. Notify local police to come pick it up. Should you be pricked by a needle, call the Maine Center for Disease Control at 1-800-821-5821.
4.) Did you know that microbeads are a megaproblem?
Those tiny granules in acne scrubs, moisturizing cleansers, whitening toothpastes, and wrinkle creams wash down the drain and may end up in our waterways. Researchers have found that ocean filter feeders such as mussels and oysters ingest these tiny pellets, passing them all the way up the food chain to humans. Last spring, Friends of Casco Bay, along with concerned citizens, other environmental and health organizations, and even industry representatives, successfully persuaded the Maine Legislature to pass a state law to phase out microbeads.
President Obama recently signed into law a federal ban on microbeads! Emma Halas-O’Connor of the Environmental Health Strategy Center observed, “Congress never could have passed this ban had it not been for individual states passing their own legislation, which put tremendous pressure on the industry to change, and creating the right conditions for a national ban.”
5.) Did you know that populations of blue mussels in Casco Bay are hanging by a thread?
Blue mussels, besides being a delicious and economical seafood for humans, provide a rich habitat for other bottom dwellers. Dense mussel beds also can dampen wave action and buffer the shorefront against storm surges.
Friends of Casco Bay Board member Ann Thayer wanted to verify anecdotal accounts that mussel beds, once so common in Casco Bay, have all but disappeared. Ann offered to head up a volunteer effort to survey the Bay. Over the past two summers, she and her team covered more than 25 areas between Portland and Harpswell. They discovered juvenile mussels on mooring ropes, wharf pilings, and floating docks. They found far fewer thriving on the ocean floor.
Casco Baykeeper Joe Payne received a panicked call from a member of Friends of Casco Bay who lived on a cove in Falmouth. He asked Joe to discover the polluter whose actions had turned his scenic inlet bright green. When Joe walked out onto the flat to investigate, his boots sank four inches into green slime. He observed that the member had recently installed a culvert under the driveway that channelled rainwater runoff directly into the cove. He turned to his worried friend and said, “You did this.” The culvert was collecting runoff from fertilized yards in the neighborhood, stimulating a lush growth of green algae across the entire cove.
Friends of Casco Bay’s stormwater monitoring reveals that this neighborhood is not the only one over-fertilizing the Bay. We have found nitrogen and lawn care pesticides in waters around Casco Bay.
When Friends of Casco Bay tested stormwater for pesticides in a South Portland waterfront neighborhood, we found Diazinon and 2,4D, a component of weed and feed products. This prompted further testing at every coastal community around Casco Bay. We detected more pesticides flowing into the Bay in stormwater. Our findings inspired our BayScaping program, which teaches residents how to reduce their use of lawn chemicals.
Pesticides and fertilizers can harm marine life, as well as children and pets. But the good news is there are simple ways you can grow a green lawn that keeps Casco Bay blue.
BayScaping will save you time, save you money, save your lawn, and save the Bay! Join your neighbors, and learn more at cascobay.org/bayscaping.
Read the next section of the report What Is Our Coastal Future?