OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Efforts continue to track pollution in the Goosefare Brook watershed. Goosefare Brook runs between Old Orchard Beach and Saco and opens into the ocean.

On Wednesday morning, about 30 people were at Jackman Hall listening to Megan Sims give an overview of pollution and monitoring efforts of Goosefare Brook. She focused on the area of the tributary that runs under New Salt Road.

Sims is the southern Maine regional field coordinator at Maine Healthy Beaches, which is a program of Maine Cooperative Extension through which volunteers collect water samples that are later tested in a laboratory to determine bacteria levels.

Though the program is focused on the coastal beaches, testing was expanded to include the Goosefare Brook watershed area, concentrating on the New Salt Tributary area. Testing done from 2012-2015 identified “hot spots” with “rather high levels” of bacteria, said Sims.

The area was tested for enterococci, an indicator of fecal matter and optical brighteners, found in household products like laundry detergent and toothpaste.

Sims said contamination can come from a number of different sources, such as leaks in aging sewer infrastructure, malfunctioning septic systems, pets and wildlife, and polluted runoff to the watershed.

“It’s a combination of a lot of things,” said Sims.

Water testing is typically done in summer months. This year, testing was conducted in May, said Sims. She said she hopes testing will continue into the early fall so comparisons can be made of samples taken in the height of summer against those taken in the spring

and fall.

Conservation Commiss-ion Chairman John Bird said the town has done dye testing on a voluntary basis, pouring dye down toilets to see if it is connected to the town sewer system. So far, he said, there have only been “one or two” problem homes, one of which has been remedied.

Bird said he has hopes in the future the town will do smoke testing, in which smoke is blown through sewer systems to find cracks or breaks in the infrastructure.

The Goosefare Brook watershed area is not the only area to have high bacterial levels, said Sims, noting that Old Orchard Beach has put “a fine lens” on the area. Other communities have similar problems, she said, but don’t have the resources that Old Orchard Beach has.

Sims said she has never seen a town as forthcoming and willing to build partnerships as Old Orchard Beach.

“The process is moving forward,” said Sims. “There is progress being made.”

More information on Maine Healthy Beaches and data on local beaches can be found at www.mainehealthybeaches.org.

— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or [email protected]

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