“April showers bring May flowers” goes the old adage. This year, however, Maine’s spring showers were particularly intense, breaking rainfall records.
Stephanie Noyes lives near the mouth of the Presumpscot River, where it runs along the Portland-Falmouth border. On May 1, after a day of heavy rains, Stephanie stopped in her tracks when she saw the surging and discolored Presumpscot River flowing beneath the Allen Avenue Extension bridge. As a new volunteer Water Reporter, she snapped a photo and made her first post.
This section of the Presumpscot River is tidal, influenced by the ebb and flow of Casco Bay. Stephanie says that at low tide in the summer, it is common to see people sunbathing on a large rock in the river. It was low tide when Stephanie took her photo, however, “the water was so high you couldn’t even see the tip of the rock,” says Stephanie. “All of the runoff from the neighborhood was just gushing down into the river.”
At Friends of Casco Bay, we saw Stephanie’s photo and immediately thought of stormwater. When heavy rain falls, water rushes over our cities and towns, collecting pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers from lawns, exhaust and salt from roadways, pathogens from pet waste, and much more. This polluted runoff is called stormwater, which is a major source of pollution into the river and Casco Bay. This toxic soup can sicken swimmers, make seafood unsafe to eat, and harm marine life.
In the case of rivers like the Presumpscot, stormwater runoff can erode the riverbanks, delivering loads of sediments that stain the water brown. This brown water makes it easy to visualize the amount of stormwater the river can carry and its influence on the health of the estuary. As the river empties into the sea, it turns Casco Bay brown, too.
Stephanie, thank you for being a Water Reporter and helping us keep an eye on the Presumpscot River and Casco Bay. Stephanie’s photo is helping us illustrate the impacts of stormwater pollution, a major threat to the health of the estuary, and a top priority at Friends of Casco Bay. The photo is worth more than a thousand words as to why we need to improve Maine’s stormwater protections.
Thank you to L.L.Bean, Ferris Olson Family Foundation for Ocean Stewardship, Allagash Brewing Company, and our members for their support of our Water Reporter program.