Thank you to everyone who made our Nabbing Nitrogen day a success!
We had 97 dedicated volunteers come out and 90 Nitrogen samples were collected!
To all of our Nabbing Nitrogen volunteers—THANK YOU for braving the chilly rain to sample with us. We were amazed by your enthusiasm and dedication.
We want to also thank the 55 boaters, kayakers, canoers, and paddleboarders who planned on Nabbing Nitrogen with us—we are sorry that the weather did not cooperate with us. The fog, mist, winds, and early morning rain made it unsafe to ask dozens of boaters and kayakers to cross the busy harbor. It was better to be safe than sorry.
You can see photos from the event on our Facebook Page. Thank you to our photographers Dave Dostie and Sonny McAlpin for capturing the day.
For those who signed up to be Nabbers: Since this is our first time completing this event, we would appreciate any feedback you have on the effort. If you signed up for the event, whether or not you participated, you can fill out our feedback form below or click here to open it in a new window. You can also email Sarah at slyman [at] cascobay [dot] org with any feedback you have.
Thank you to the businesses and organizations that allowed us to use their private access points on the water or sampled themselves: Centerboard Yacht Club, Chandler’s Wharf, DiMillo’s Restaurant and Marina, Gowen’s Marine, Maine State Pier, Portland Company, Portland Harbor Master, Portland Water District, Portland Yacht Services, South Port Marina, Sprague Energy, Sunset Marina, the U.S. Coast Guard, Union Wharf, and Waynflete.
Thank you to Mill Creek Hannaford and Gulf of Maine Research Institute for allowing us to use their parking lots as coordination sites. Thank you to Andy’s Old Port Pub for hosting our debriefing.
Our intern, Joshua Clukey, was essential in the success of this event. Thank you, Josh, for your tireless efforts.
Our Nabbing Nitrogen effort is a partnership between Friends of Casco Bay, Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the City of South Portland.
This project has been funded in part by Davis Conservation Foundation, Birch Cove Fund at Maine Community Foundation, Horizon Foundation, Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, Seth Sprague Educational and Charitable Foundation, RBC Blue Water Project, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, the Bowdoin College Common Good Grant, and other generous supporters.
We have just sent the samples off to a laboratory for analysis and hope to be able to share the results in the fall. You can support our effort by making a donation to help defray the costs of the laboratory samples here. The Nabbing effort had great coverage in the media. Thank you to those who interacted with the media. Journalists and reporters appreciated your enthusiasm as much as we did!
Here are a few news stories about the event:
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I sign up?
Sign up has been closed. We invite you to fill out our volunteer application to learn about our other volunteer opportunities and get put on our email list for the specific volunteer opportunities you are interested in.
Why are we picking on Nitrogen?
Too much nitrogen can turn Casco Bay from a healthy blue to a slimy green. All living things need nitrogen to grow, but an overdose can trigger excessive growth of nuisance algae, reduce water clarity, and lower oxygen levels. This process also releases carbon dioxide, creating acidic conditions that can make it harder for clams and mussels to build and maintain their shells.
By nabbing nitrogen with us, you will help us map nitrogen levels in the Fore River and Portland Harbor—one of the most heavily populated regions in the state. This may allow us to identify problem areas and explore sources of pollution. This effort will provide the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with data needed to ground truth its nitrogen model, used to predict nitrogen sources and distribution in this region. Your effort will help our advocacy efforts to establish a limit on how much nitrogen may be discharged into coastal waters.
Where does nitrogen pollution come from?
Excess nitrogen comes into Casco Bay from three different sources, almost in equal proportion—from sewage, from stormwater runoff, and from air pollution (see pie chart). Water quality sampling by Friends of Casco Bay has shown that nitrogen pollution is most severe in areas that are close to shore, near river mouths, at sewer overflow pipes, and other locations where stormwater runoff reaches the Bay. That is why we have created this event to “Nab Nitrogen.”
Nitrogen is contained in human, pet, and animals wastes, in decaying plants and animals, and is released during the combustion of fossil fuels. Sewage discharges from wastewater treatment plants, combined sewer overflows, and leaky septic systems add nitrogen from human waste. Stormwater runoff from land flushes oil and dirt from paved surfaces, pet wastes, and fertilizers from lawns, farms, parks, golf courses, into the ocean. Nitrogen also descends from tailpipes and smokestacks, chimneys, and power plants.
Why at this date and time?
Sampling on an outgoing tide is the best time to measure the influence of land-based sources of nitrogen pollution to Casco Bay. We hope 130 community members, especially sea kayakers and boaters, will volunteer and sample simultaneously at 10:10 a.m., just before low tide. These samples will help us create a snapshot of nitrogen concentrations in the Fore River and Portland Harbor, allowing us to better understand land-based sources of nitrogen pollution in this region of Casco Bay.
How many sites can I sample?
I can’t sample at 10:10 a.m. on July 10. How can I participate?
Nitrogen Nabbing can be done only at the specified time so that samples are collected simultaneously, to help us create the snapshot. If you want to help out with preparation in the weeks prior to the sampling event, there are other ways for you to be involved. Email slyman [at] cascobay [dot] org to let us know you are interested.
Why are you sampling only in the Fore River and Portland Harbor?
The Maine DEP is refining a model on nitrogen inputs into our coastal waters and needs more data in the Fore River and Portland Harbor. By nabbing nitrogen, you are helping ground truth this model while helping cities, like Portland and South Portland, identify sources of nitrogen moving into Casco Bay.
While this initial effort on July 10 will take place only in Portland and South Portland, we hope to nab nitrogen in the future, in other communities around Casco Bay.
What if weather is an issue?
In case of dangerous weather, you will be asked to monitor our website www.cascobay.org for any notifications regarding weather conditions. Please provide us with a cell phone number that we can text to reach you. Weather contingencies include the following:
• If there is a small craft advisory, we will nab only by land and not by sea.
• If heavy weather is predicted or approaching (hurricane, thunderstorms), we will reschedule the effort to July 24 from 6 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. (on that day sampling will take place at 8:24 a.m. due to the difference in tides).
What if I have some other issue that arises on July 10?
Please call our office at (207) 799-8574 in the event that you need any help with any contingencies that may arise.
When will we see the results, the snapshot of nitrogen levels in Portland Harbor on July 10?
The samples will be frozen and sent to a laboratory for analysis. After we receive the results, we will construct a map, plotting the various levels of nitrogen at sites around the harbor. We expect to be able to share the results this fall.
What can I do to prevent nitrogen pollution?
- Don’t use fertilizers on your lawn.
- Plant or retain bushes and trees to keep water from running off your property and into waterways. Go to cascobay.org/bayscaping for more tips on how to grow a green yard to keep Casco Bay blue.
- Conserve energy, both in terms of electrical usage and gasoline consumption decreases the nitrogen oxides that lead to acid rain formation.
- Buy local—locally produced goods have not been transported significant distances, reducing gas consumption and refrigeration during transportation, which also decreases nitrogen emissions.
- Eat organic foods. Because they are not treated with commercial fertilizers, further decreasing nitrogen pollution.
- Maintain your septic system by having an annual inspection of the tank and having regular pump outs by a licensed professional.
- Empty your boat’s holding tank at a pumpout facility at your marina or through Friends of Casco Bay’s mobile pumpout service.
- Burn less oil, wood, and coal to reduce pollution from smokestacks.
- Keep your car tuned up to reduce pollution from tailpipes.
- Pick up pet waste.
Calculate your nitrogen footprint at
Who are our partners?
This effort is a partnership between Friends of Casco Bay, Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the City of South Portland.
This project has been funded in part by Davis Conservation Foundation, Birch Cove Fund at Maine Community Foundation, Horizon Foundation, Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, Seth Sprague Educational and Charitable Foundation, RBC Blue Water Project, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, the Bowdoin College Common Good Grant, and other generous supporters. You can support this effort by making a donation here.
To learn more about why nitrogen is a problem, see our Bay Paper here.