Public beaches along Maine’s coastline likely will be flooded with visitors this weekend as temperatures are expected to creep into the 90s.

The ocean water at those 61 beaches, which collectively stretch more than 30 miles, will be the cleanest and safest it has been in four years, according to data released by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The Maine Healthy Beaches program monitors recreational water quality as a way to protect public health. It’s funded by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and receives staff support from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension/Sea Grant.

From Memorial Day through Labor Day, water samples are analyzed every week for the enterococcus bacteria, which indicates the presence of fecal contamination from humans and animals. If bacteria levels exceed limitations sets by the EPA, beach managers will post an advisory. If levels are extremely high, beaches have to be closed.

Last year, the program found that beach advisory days had declined by nearly 50 percent from the previous summer. More than two-thirds of the 61 beaches had no water quality issues in 2011, an improvement from 2010, when almost half of all beaches had at least one advisory.

“Maine should take pride that its storied salt-water beaches are not only beautiful but they are incredibly clean,” Maine DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho said in a statement. “As summer sets in and Mainers and visitors alike head to the beach, they can be confident what they’ll find is almost always open and safe for swimming. On behalf of all who enjoy the Maine coast, I want to thank the many local partners and public beachgoers for their stewardship of this invaluable resource.”

The DEP says healthy habits for beachgoers include: avoiding swimming after heavy rainfall; not ingesting beach water; taking children to the bathroom often and utilizing swim diapers; disposing of trash and pet waste properly; and not discharging untreated boat sewage.

More information about Maine beaches as well as any posted advisories can be found by visiting www.mainehealthybeaches.org.

Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:
[email protected]