2017-11-01 / Front Page / JT Beacon

Ogunquit ramps up campaign to improve water quality

By ED PIERCE
Executive Editor

OGUNQUIT — Elevated levels of fecal indicator bacteria from humans, pets, and wildlife in the Ogunquit River and its tributaries and beaches has prompted ongoing water quality monitoring conducted by the town of Ogunquit and Maine Healthy Beaches.

According to a news release issued by the town, Ogunquit has partnered with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Maine Healthy Beaches and FB Environmental Associates for the past three years to identify possible sources of fecal contamination to the Ogunquit River and nearby beaches.  

A public awareness campaign has been launched to educate residents and visitors on the importance of proper pet waste disposal and is part of a Phase II grant awarded to Ogunquit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act.

The town's Public Works Department will install signs that promote proper pet waste disposal throughout the watershed in key neighborhoods or dog-walking areas.

Residents and visitors are being asked to pick up after their pets by disposing of bagged pet waste in the trash or flushing unbagged pet waste down the toilet. Pet waste left on lawns, roads, or parking lots can be easily washed off to surface waters, making rivers and beaches unsuitable for swimming and other recreational opportunities. 

Scientific studies have shown that all dogs haver some sort of coliform bacteria. That includes E. coli, a bacterium that can cause disease, and fecal coliform bacteria, which spreads through feces. Dogs also carry salmonella and giardia and environmental montiors employ measurements of some of these bacteria as indicators of how much fecal matter has contaminated certain bodies of water. 

Informational brochures about pet waste cleanup are available at the Ogunquit Community Center at 23 School St. and the Ogunquit Public Works Department and FB Environmental Associates will stencil catch basins within the watershed to remind residents and visitors that stormwater systems are directly connected to surface waters.

Chemicals, waste, or other harmful pollutants dumped in or washed into storm drains can make their way to rivers and beaches and pose health risks, especially to vulnerable populations like children and elderly.

A public outreach event for students was held Oct. 27 by the town and during that event, a discussion focused on the retrofit installed in the town's lower parking lot to treat stormwater runoff. Students also were able to assist in stenciling in a few catch basins.

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 ext. 326 or by email at editor@journaltribune.com.

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