UPDATED: Raw sewage from homes pollutes ocean at Snow Marine ParkSpecies test finds human waste; no dog feces
Rockland — Raw sewage from three homes in the South End, along with discharge from Sharp's Point South has been going out into the water off Snow Marine Park for about 60 years, after the storm drain was hooked into the sewer, according to City Waste Water Treatment Director Terrance Pinto.
Pinto said the city is working to fix the problem immediately and it has notified the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
"We're going to fix the problem," he said. "We're digging today."
Snow Marine Park has been closed due to very high E. coli bacteria counts measured by the DEP in drains coming from the park area. One location was from a stormwater drain coming out near the boat launch area. The other is closer to the grassy, wet area at the park.
After looking into the matter, the city has discovered that about 60 years ago, while working on the stormwater line, someone with the city hooked the stormwater line into the old sewer line along Mechanic Street, Pinto explained. As a result, when residents at three homes in the area near the railroad tracks flushed, it went straight to the water, he said.
He said he expects the work to cost less than $8,000, and added he is optimistic that DEP will work with the city as it corrects this issue. However, DEP could fine the city over it.
While this explains the problem near the boat launch, the city is still trying to determine the cause of the high E. coli counts in the grassy part of the park. The city has sent samples to a lab to test for what species the fecal matter might belong to. The problem may be related to feces from dogs walking in the park, he said.
At the Aug. 11 city council meeting, City Manager Thomas Luttrell said the results of the tests came back, finding no dog feces. Instead, the tests had found evidence of human feces.
Meanwhile, the city is in the process of checking over all of the sewer pipes in Rockland. Dye testing, smoke testing and examination of the pipes via a small camera are under way.
The amount of the E. coli is in the 1,000s of colonies per water sample, he said, which is dangerous. He said a count of more than 200 will cause a lake to be closed to swimming.
Pinto said he believes Snow Marine Park will eventually be reopened, but does not know whether the city will continue to allow dogs there. He said a dog park should not be located in a wet area along the water. He said he would rather see a dog park further inland, possibly off Old County Road, which allows the ground water to filter through the forested and rocky areas through a more natural process before reaching the ocean.
Courier Publications News Director Daniel Dunkle can be reached at email@example.com or 594-4401 ext. 122.
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Daniel Dunkle is editor of The Courier-Gazette and news director for Courier Publications. He lives in Rockland with his wife, Christine, who also works for Courier Publications, and two children.
Dunkle has previously served as editor of The Republican Journal in Belfast. He has worked as a reporter and photographer in the Midcoast since 1998.