Home » Water Quality

Tag: Water Quality

Action alert: Casco Bay & Presumpscot River need your voice!

Photo provided by Michael Shaughnessy, Friends of the Presumpscot River.

The Presumpscot River and Casco Bay need your voice!

2022 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act. We can think of no better way to celebrate than to see the lower Presumpscot — the biggest tributary to Casco Bay — upgraded to a Class B water.

Please help us make this happen by letting a key committee of the Maine Legislature know that you support an amendment to: “LD 1964 An Act To Update Certain Water Quality Standards and To Reclassify Certain Waters of the State.”

Under the Clean Water Act, bodies of water are classified as Class AA, A, B, or C based on their health. Class AA and A waters are the healthiest and receive the highest protections while Class C waters allow for some modification to natural conditions caused by human activity. Upgrading a body of water’s classification matters because it strengthens the legal protections it receives.

As written, LD 1964 lacks language to upgrade the lower Presumpscot River, from Saccarappa Falls in Westbrook to head of tide between Portland and Falmouth, from Class C to Class B. We are working to fix this.

Thirty years ago, the lower Presumpscot was called the “dirtiest little section of river”¹ in Maine. Back then, it could not even meet the Class C water quality standard. Today, the Presumpscot is the jewel of downtown Westbrook. The river supports ever increasing numbers of fish and wildlife. In recent years, local residents have even spotted sturgeon jumping from its waters — a sure sign of a healthy river as sturgeon are highly sensitive to pollution. People, too, are once again using the river for swimming and other forms of recreation.

On top of all of these improvements, Friends of Casco Bay and others have reviewed water quality data from the lower Presumpscot River and concluded that it meets the Class B standard. We want to lock in these improvements in water quality and make sure there is no back-sliding to Class C. The Clean Water Act forbids degrading water quality, and aspires to continually restore and upgrade waters to higher classes.

The Maine Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on LD 1964 on February 28 at 9 a.m.

Casco Bay needs you to submit written testimony in support of an amendment to the bill that will upgrade the lower Presumpscot to Class B.

It is important that the Committee hear from you. Use the toolkit below to submit your testimony.

Thank you for using your voice to help protect the health of Casco Bay,

Ivy Frignoca
Casco Baykeeper
Friends of Casco Bay

¹ Robert M. Sanford and William S. Plumley, River Voices (North Country Press, 2020), p. 239.

Testimony Toolkit to support and amend LD 1964

Below are suggested talking points you might want to include in your testimony. Legislators appreciate hearing your personal story, including what the Presumpscot River and Casco Bay mean to you.

Suggested testimony (feel free to put in your own words):

Dear Senator Stacy Brenner, Representative Ralph Tucker and Distinguished Members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee,

I am writing to ask that the Environment and Natural Resources Committee vote that LD 1964: An Act To Update Certain Water Quality Standards and To Reclassify Certain Waters of the State, ought to pass with an amendment to upgrade the lower Presumpscot River, from  Saccarappa Falls to Head of Tide, to Class B status because:

  • The Clean Water Act aspires to restore water quality and urges us to set the highest attainable water quality classifications for all bodies of water. These expectations should now receive particular emphasis as 2022 is the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. 
  • The lower Presumpscot River was once known as the “dirtiest little section of river in the state.” Industrial pollution contributed high loads of toxins and caused dissolved oxygen levels to plummet. Dams degraged river habitat, including blocking fish passage. This all began to change when local residents and Friends of the Presumpscot River took it upon themselves to shine the spotlight on the importance of clean water. Stronger permit requirements for the S.D. Warren paper mill, water quality upgrades for upriver sections of the Presumpscot, dam removal, and fish passages have helped the river achieve a dramatic recovery. Today, the river lies at the heart of downtown Westbrook, and supports flourishing neighborhoods and recreation in nature reserves. Anadromous fish have returned to run up the Presumpscot and local residents have witnessed sturgeon jumping from its waters. 
  • In the summer of 2021, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) collected data from the lower Presumpscot. Those data show that the lower Presumpscot maintained dissolved oxygen saturation well above 75%, a benchmark that demonstrates the river meets Class B standards

Sincerely,

[Your name]

How to submit your testimony:

The Maine Legislature’s Testimony Submission and Sign-up page can be confusing to navigate. Please follow the instructions below to submit your testimony.

  • Go to https://www.mainelegislature.org/testimony/ 
  • First select “public hearing” as the type of hearing. 
  • Then select “Environment and Natural Resources Committee” and identify the specific date and time when the bill hearing is scheduled (LD 1964 will be heard on February 28 at 9 a.m). 
  • You will then have the option to select LD 1964. 
  • You can write your testimony directly into the form, copy-and-paste your testimony into the form, or click the “CHOOSE FILE” button to attach a file of your drafted testimony.
  • Finally, you will then need to put your name and contact information into the form, check the “I am not a robot” box, and click the “submit/register” button.

If you need help submitting your testimony through the Maine Legislature’s website, please reach out to our Staff Writer Robby Lewis-Nash: email robbylewisnash [at] cascobay [dot] org or call (413) 695-3306. Robby looks forward to helping you make your voice heard.