PORTLAND – Decades of accumulated mud and gunk are being removed from the pond at Deering Oaks.

Crews from Portland Public Services have been digging up muck for the past two weeks. The excavation is expected to continue this weekend and into next week.

The gooey product of leaves and debris from storm runoff is believed to have triggered a massive algae bloom in the pond during the summer, as the decaying material released nutrients into the water.

“Roses are really the only thing we want to see bloom at Deering Oaks,” Michael Bobinsky, director of Portland Public Services, said Friday.

The city plans to refill the pond for ice skating later this month.

Anne Pringle and other members of Friends of Deering Oaks alerted the city to the situation.

About half of the pond has been cleared. The mud is being loaded into 12-cubic-yard dump trucks, which take it to the Riverside Recycling Center.

About 4,000 cubic yards — the volume of two, two-story houses — had been removed by Friday, said Marc Spiller, operations coordinator for Portland Public Services.

The mud, as deep as 2 feet, is being cleared to expose the pond’s original sandy bottom. The work was planned to coincide with the annual draining of the pond, when workers remove the fountain and duck house for the winter.

On Friday, workers were creating an access road into the drained pond for easier mud removal. The road will remain after the project is completed so it can be reused. It will be submerged when the pond is refilled.

Workers said the project is dirty but not especially smelly. “I expected it to really stink,” said Craig Sloan, who was driving one of the dump trucks.

So far, nothing of note has emerged from the muck.

“It is all gross, but this is definitely going to be an improvement,” said Rick Meserve, Public Services supervisor.

The work will continue next spring if needed.

Pringle said she hopes the water and ice in the pond will appear much clearer. “This should make a huge difference,” she said.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

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