High E. coli level not from Snow Marine Park, Pinto says

By Larry Di Giovanni | Jun 25, 2014
Photo by: Larry Di Giovanni Terry Pinto, director of Rockland's Wastewater Treatment Facility, stands June 24 near the stormwater discharge pipe at Snow Marine Park where the state DEP detected a high level of E. coli bacteria June 9.

Rockland — A much higher-than-normal level of E. coli bacteria found in a 36-inch wide pipe at Snow Marine Park did not originate in the park, Rockland Wastewater Treatment Facility Director Terry Pinto said.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection tested about 14 locations throughout Rockland Harbor June 9, according to an email Pinto received from Melissa Evers, a state DEP stream specialist. The large stormwater discharge pipe, which empties into Rockland Harbor, had high levels of E. coli bacteria that were also elevated in the nearby mooring field, Evers said.

Pinto said the state tests the quality of harbor waters not just in Rockland but throughout Maine. He also emphasized that all other Rockland locations tested by the state, including the main harbor waters, were clean.

Pinto said the city used closed-circuit television cameras inside the pipe June 18 and found that it runs underground through the park up to Mechanic Street, crosses the railroad tracks, and continues north. The city is still determining its point of origin.

The city tested the E. coli level at the pipe and found it to contain 2,000 bacteria colony-forming units per sample, where the accepted level is 400.

"None of this discharge is coming from Snow Marine Park," Pinto said. "I can say that with a high degree of confidence."

A storm drain culvert near the center of the park will also be tested as soon as the city receives more rain, he said.

E. coli is a species of fecal coliform bacteria that is specific to waste from humans, dogs, and other warm-blooded animals as well as seagulls, Pinto said. The presence of high levels in water indicates possible water contamination.

Pinto, who noticed many people releasing their dogs in Snow Marine Park without leashes as their dogs relieved themselves, said it is regrettable when they do not carry plastic bags to clean up after their pets. He noted that brochures from the Maine Healthy Beaches program mention that while just one gram of human waste contains 13 million fecal coliform bacteria, that number is 23 million — nearly double — for dogs.

The city has an ordinance that requires people to pick up after their dogs. But Pinto said the answer is education, not policing or confrontation between interested parties.

"I don't believe in bothering people or harassing people, that's totally wrong," Pinto said. "It's about education. Most people will clean up after their dogs when they understand how important it is. Also, don't feed seagulls to the point where they start to accumulate. All of these things lead to water contamination."

Pinto said he may need to make recommendations to the city going forward, once the source of contamination is found. Enclosed dog parks may be part of the solution, he said.

City residents Valerie Hooper and Linda Athearn have made their position on properly cleaning up after one's dogs well-known to the city, including during a recent City Council meeting. The city's ordinance needs to be enforced, they said.

Hooper and Athearn have also advocated for at least one enclosed dog park in Rockland, while voicing their belief that the city has not taken their concerns seriously enough.

Athearn said dog waste contaminated her dog and made it sick, which cost her more than $3,000 in veterinary bills.

The city has also found high levels of E. coli bacteria recently at sites including The Knox Center for Long Term Care and the U.S. Post Office. Pinto said one possible cause could be unsecured dumpsters, where rain seeps into containers and E. coli is released.

Courier Publications reporter Larry Di Giovanni can be reached at 594-4401 x. 117, or by email at: ldigiovanni@villagesoup.com.

City residents Valerie Hooper, left, and Linda Athearn recently addressed the Rockland City Council, requesting the city enforce its ordinance requiring owners to clean up after their dogs. (Photo by: Larry Di Giovanni)
Comments (6)
Posted by: Susan Watts | Jun 26, 2014 07:17

Is there a sign posted that states it is not a dog park or that dogs are allowed off leash? Maybe this would help a little. Gates are an expense that penalizes those who follow the rules. Sadly, we are an entitled society where if it is good for me, it is ok.

Posted by: Kathryn Fogg | Jun 25, 2014 21:02

It is true that there are signs at Snow Marine Park that dogs should be leashed.  It is also true that a member of the Rockland Police Department while on duty there told me that it was permissable to have dogs off leash  but people must clean up after their dogs.  Most of the dogs are friendly but there are a few which should be on leash.  People have reported these to the police who have followed up with the owners.

Posted by: Cheryl McMahon | Jun 25, 2014 14:31

I agree with PJ Walter. Most people who bring their dogs to Snow Marine Park think it's  dog park where the animals are allowed to run free.  My daughter was chased by a large off leash dog this winter when she and my husband went to Snow Marine Park for a walk.  When my husband asked the owner to leash the dog, the owner said, "This is a dog park, they don't have to be leashed."  My husband no longer takes my daughter or my dog there because of the irresponsible pet owners.

I am a dog owner, and when I bring my dog for a walk, he is always leashed and is picked up after.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Jun 25, 2014 13:28

Same thing goes on at the ball field on Old County Road. Some people sit in their vehicle while the dog or dogs run. My dogs like to run free but I chase after them, clean up after them and if there is other dogs there they are leashed. It's only a few that feel they don't have to clean up after their dogs. People play ball on these fields. They shouldn't have to play in dog waste. I carry extra bags that I can offer to others. Kind of shames them into being responsible.

Posted by: PJ Walter | Jun 25, 2014 09:47

Part of the problem is that it is widely accepted that Snow Marine is an off leash dog friendly park. It is not!  There is also a misperception that you can have your dog off off leash if it is under voice control.  This is also untrue.  Rockland has leash laws.  If you want to let your dog off leash or defecate freely then you need to do it on your own property. Period.

Posted by: Kathryn Fogg | Jun 25, 2014 09:25

Camden has a fenced in dog park and faces the same problem of people not cleaning up after their dogs. Most people at Snow Marine Park do clean up after their dogs and the dogs of people who don't. The people who stay with their dogs are not the guilty.  It is the ones who let the dog out of the car while they stay in it (not many) or those that turn their backs on their dogs and start making cell phone calls,  There are also a few dogs that find their way to the park alone and would not open a gate to get in.  Having a gated park would limit other activities, kite flying being an example.

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