June 28, 2013

Maine beach water ranked among worst

A report released ahead of the July 4 tourist rush puts Maine low on the list of 30 coastal states.

By North Cairn ncairn@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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click image to enlarge

People enjoy East End Beach in Portland on Thursday, June 27, 2013 as a Casco Bay Ferry passes in the background. Maine has sunk to 27th on the list of 30 coastal states that are rated by the Natural Resources Defense Council for the water quality of their beaches.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

TO READ the report and see a list of Maine beaches whose water quality failed to meet state health standards, click here. Scroll down the page to see the complete list.

FOR UPDATED DATA

Call your town office or the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and check on the particular beach you wish to use.

Beach water pollution causes a range of waterborne illnesses, including stomach flu, skin rashes, ear and eye infections, hepatitis and neurological disorders.

A total of 194 beach closings or advisory days alerting swimmers to unhealthy conditions were declared in Maine last year, an increase of 73 percent from 112 days in 2011. More than 90 percent of the closing and advisory days were caused by elevated bacterial levels, the report says.

Beach closings are relatively rare, and occur only when high bacterial levels have been shown to be chronic or are known threats to public safety or health.

Environment Maine and the Natural Resources Defense Council renewed their calls for state and federal officials to take further action to strengthen water-quality monitoring standards and ensure financial support for state programs. President Obama's fiscal year 2014 budget recommends eliminating funding for a federal grant program that Maine and many other states depend on for their monitoring programs.

Figdor also said that monitoring in Maine should be more widespread, consistent and frequent because the current program makes it too difficult for residents and visitors to get the information they need to make informed decisions about which beaches to visit.

The groups also said the addition of green infrastructure -- including rain barrels, rain gardens and porous driveways and parking surfaces -- could make a substantial difference, because they reduce street runoff.

More than 30 miles of public-access beaches stretch along Maine's coast, including bays, sounds, and estuaries.

The state's coastal beach-water quality monitoring program, Maine Healthy Beaches, is staffed by volunteer testers. It is managed by the DEP and coordinated by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

North Cairn can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

ncairn@pressherald.com

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