An algae bloom, possibly caused by pollution, clouds the water in Maquoit Bay in 2022. Glenn Michaels photo

The Brunswick Town Council on Monday established a task force charged with organizing a water-quality study of Maquoit Bay over concerns about pollution.

Stormwater runoff carrying nitrogen-rich fertilizers and pesticides into the bay has been suspected as a possible cause of pollution that officials say may have contributed to the deaths of 4 acres of clams in the bay last year. Citing concerns about the bay’s health, the council last year purchased 283 acres around the bay for $4 million. The land had been slated for a new housing development that environmental groups said would negatively affect the health of the bay.

Councilor Steve Walker said a water-quality study will help “inform future decisions on that Maquoit land as well as inform potential ordinance changes for the long-term protection of Maquoit Bay.”

The task force, which was proposed by council Chairperson James Mason and Vice Chairperson Abby King, will include Kristin Feindel, a biologist with the state Department of Environmental Protection; Heather Huntt, a project manager with the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District; David Page, a biochemistry professor at Bowdoin College; and Ben Twining, a scientist at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. Walker and Councilor Jennifer Hicks will also serve on the task force but in a nonvoting capacity.

“We’re getting advice from people outside the town so there’s no conflict,” Mason said. “It’s bringing the unbiased views of scientists.”

The task force is charged with proposing a water-quality study to be conducted by a consulting firm, determining its cost, then presenting it to the council, which will decide whether to fund it. Mason said grants could help pay for it; he previously expressed concern that a massive increase in funding for the town’s new recreation complex could affect the town’s ability to pay for other projects like a water-quality study.

Councilors said the study could guide new policies to protect the bay.

“It’s providing us with a baseline from which we can make decisions,” Mason said.

“It’s very important that we find out a factual, scientific method of what’s affecting the waters around us,” said Councilor David Watson.” … We need to take any blinders off.”

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