East End Beach in Portland was reopened Tuesday after tests showed contamination levels are well within state safety standards and pose no threat to swimmers.

The popular beach was closed Sunday afternoon following a malfunction at the East End Wastewater Treatment Plant that resulted in the discharge of an undetermined amount of wastewater into Casco Bay.

Water quality tests were conducted by the State of Maine and those results came back Tuesday.

“The City of Portland reopened the East End Beach this afternoon after the test results from the first water sample came back well below the state threshold,” Jessica Grondin, spokeswoman for the city, said in a news release. Additional samples were taken and city staff will continue to monitor water quality at the beach, which sits at the foot of Munjoy Hill and overlooks Casco Bay and its islands.

Test results were 10 MPN/100 ml, a level that is “well below Maine’s safety threshold of 104 MPN/100 ml,” according to Grondin. MPN stands for most probable number, a statistical method for testing water samples for harmful bacteria and other pathogens that could cause people to become sick.

Sunday’s discharge happened after a Central Maine Power line that feeds electricity to the plant shut off around 8:15 a.m. A backup generator at the plant failed at the same time sending partially disinfected wastewater into the bay off East End Beach, said Scott Firmin, Director of Wastewater Services for the Portland Water District. The facility was without power for about six hours.


Firmin, who was contacted Tuesday evening, said he and his staff are still in the process of figuring out how much wastewater was discharged. Firmin said that probably won’t be known for at least a couple more days.

Those amounts will be included in an incident report that must be filed with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection by Friday.

The most commonly reported symptom of water-related illness is diarrhea caused by bacteria, parasites and viruses, according to Maine Healthy Beaches, which monitors water quality at Maine’s coastal beaches and participated in the East End water tests. Other symptoms include vomiting, sinus infections, stomachache and flu-like symptoms.

Maine Healthy Beaches is a partnership among municipalities, state parks, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension/Sea Grant, and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. It provides daily reports on whether beaches are closed or open, and the reasons for the closures.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can be transmitted by swimming in the ocean, beaches, lakes or rivers.

East End Beach was closed for almost a week two years ago when 1.6 million gallons of wastewater spilled from the treatment plant, washing away a section of the Eastern Promenade Trail, and flowing into Casco Bay. Following the accident, water tests showed elevated levels of bacteria.

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