Our trusty pumpout boat Wanda (aka Baykeeper II) kept over 200,000 gallons of raw sewage out of the Bay from 1995 to 2018, siphoning wastewater from the toilets of recreational boats and delivering it to shoreside facilities. After nearly a quarter century of service, it was time for an upgrade.
This spring, we took possession of a new 26-foot pumpout boat, built by Marine Boat Builders Company of Warwick, Rhode Island. Our new boat will enable us to haul 650 gallons of sewage — more than twice the capacity of our old workhorse.
Before our pumpout boat was on the scene, local boaters reported seeing raw sewage floating at popular anchorages. People sometimes said they got swimmer’s rash from being in the water.
Our Pumpout Program does more for the health of the Bay than just servicing recreational vessels. Our knowledge of pumpout facilities helped encourage local marinas to install their own pumpout stations. An added benefit of our pumpout advocacy: We led the charge for Casco Bay to become the first federally designated No Discharge Area in Maine, protecting it from cruise ship pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency requires that a region have adequate pumpout facilities before granting this designation, which prohibits boats from dumping both treated and untreated sewage.
As for Wanda, she will continue to be a champion for clean water in service for Boston Sailing Center in Boston Harbor.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Responsible mariners face a dilemma. The Coast Guard requires that most vessels carry three flares to use in the event of an emergency, but the flares expire in three to four years and have to be replaced. Pyrotechnic flares are classified as hazardous waste, so how do we dispose of them?
Boaters have tried storing expired flares in buckets of water in their sheds, shooting off flares, or throwing them in the trash. The only safe, environmentally responsible way to dispose of expired flares is by incineration. Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca is working with Representative Jay McCreight of Harpswell and State Fire Marshal Joe Thomas on a plan to deal with those stockpiles of expired marine flares. Thomas encourages boaters to call his office at (207) 626-3870. His staff can collect expired flares and take them to an approved State-owned incinerator. Stay tuned for
more details about this program.
Take my sewage . . . please!
Pumpout Coordinator Jim Splude operates the Baykeeper II, our mobile pumpout service. Since 1995, our pumpout
vessel has kept nearly 180,000 gallons of raw sewage out of the Bay. Pumpout customers appreciate the service.
“It definitely makes it easier on them,” Jim comments, as he can schedule an appointment to pump out their marine toilet without the owner needing to be present. At an average of $10 a service call, there aren’t many better deals around!
Excess nitrogen comes into Casco Bay from three different sources, almost in equal proportion—from sewage, from stormwater runoff, and from the sky (see pie chart).
When we look at the relationship between nitrogen and salinity (see graph below), we see high levels of nitrogen closer to shore where salinity is lower. This is evidence that much of the excess nitrogen found in Casco Bay is coming from land-based activities, such as polluted stormwater runoff and sewage treatment plant discharges.
Salinity is the measure of how salty water is. Salinity of the open ocean is 35 parts per thousand or 3.5% saltiness. Casco Bay is less salty and averages around 31 parts per thousand, mainly because of stormwater and fresh water from rivers and streams flowing into coastal waters. The water in Casco Bay, in general, is saltier farther from land, though fluctuations do occur.
The time of year also has a big impact on the salinity of Casco Bay. Salinity plummets every spring as snow melts, flooding rivers and streams that run into the Bay. Heavy rains also reduce salinity in the Bay.