A portion of Thatcher Brook, a 7.7-mile-long tributary of the Saco River, is pictured near the Maine Turnpike on Monday. The Biddeford Conservation Commission has announced the communities of Biddeford and Arundel are the recipients of a $140,000 grant from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to bolster remediation efforts of the polluted stream.

A portion of Thatcher Brook, a 7.7-mile-long tributary of the Saco River, is pictured near the Maine Turnpike on Monday. The Biddeford Conservation Commission has announced the communities of Biddeford and Arundel are the recipients of a $140,000 grant from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to bolster remediation efforts of the polluted stream.

BIDDEFORD — The City of Biddeford and the Town of Arundel are the recipients of a nearly $140,000 grant from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to bolster remediation efforts of the Thatcher Brook watershed.

The two communities, with support from the Biddeford Conservation Commission and the York Council Soil and Water Conservation District, have been awarded $139,790 in MDEP 319 Nonpoint Source Grant funding to aid in Phase 1 of the Thatcher Brook Watershed Implementation Project.

Originally established in 2009, the project was finalized in 2015 to restore the 7.7-mile-long Thatcher Brook, a tributary of the Saco River. The brook flows into Arundel from Biddeford near the Maine Turnpike and then back into city limits, where it dumps into the river above the dam downtown.

In 2009, the MDEP listed the brook as impaired for failing to meet water quality standards for its classification as a Class B stream. According to the BCC, about 2.7 miles of the stream are heavily polluted, with some stretches suffering from low levels of dissolved oxygen that can make the water less hospitable to aquatic life.

Other areas of the stream contain elevated levels of chlorine, phosphorous and specific conductance, which can also pose a threat to fish and wildlife.

BCC Vice-Chairman Ken Buechs said the cause of the pollution is polluted runoff, also known as non-point source pollution, from impervious surfaces such as driveways, parking lots and rooftops. About 14 percent of the watershed is comprised of impervious surface, according to the conservation commission.

“Anything that gets into the upstream carries down and multiplies the problem,” Buechs said Monday.

In the seven years since the remediation efforts were proposed, Phase 1 of the project is on track for completion by its 2020 deadline, City Engineer Tom Milligan told the Journal Tribune on Sept. 13. The project’s total cost is just under $1.3 million, about $500,000 of which is designated for the first phase of work, including public education and outreach in addition to some construction.

Phase 2 of the project involves heavier construction work and increased outreach programming, and is scheduled to be complete by 2025.

The DEP grant will help fund the installation of stormwater drain retrofits, culvert replacements and vegetative buffers on the banks of the brook.

The city is also performing two sewer separation projects that Milligan said will help mitigate stormwater drainage during heavy rains.

The communities and organizations must provide $105,469 in matching funds as part of their award. Buechs said the money will become available in January once all entities sign a contract accepting the grant.

Grant funds will also support the conservation commission’s education and outreach strategies, Buechs said.

“The contingency is that the city has to now sign a contract committing to the state to fulfill all the commitments that are part of the management plan, and that is the culmination of the effort the BCC has been championing for the last eight or nine months,” Buechs said. “That means we’re going to embark on this outreach program.”

That program began in July, when the BCC sent 955 mailers to homeowners in the watershed detailing the extent of pollution in their backyards and methods to reduce runoff.

Buechs also said there will be a concerted effort between the commission and the University of New England to develop methods for middle- and high school-aged kids in the Biddeford school system to study runoff.

The commission will work to install signs within the Thatcher Brook watershed to inform people there about the ongoing conservation efforts, he said.

“We will work to install signage within the watershed so people who live or work or travel into the watershed can be mindful and connect to the public relations campaign, the communication campaign, and relate to it and appreciate it,” he said.

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]


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