Wastewater Discharge Sparks Water Warning in Northern Maine

May 12, 2011

Samantha DePoy-Warren, Maine DEP Spokesperson/Director of Education and Outreach samantha.depoy-warren@maine.gov / 287-5842 (office) or 592-0427 (cell) Bill Sheehan, Environmental Specialist at Maine DEP bill.j.sheehan@maine.gov/ 760-3136

-A sewer line blockage leads to more than a million gallons of untreated wastewater discharging into Greenlaw Stream and surrounding wetlands-

LIMESTONE – The public is being encouraged to avoid contact with water in and around a northern Maine stream following the discharge of more than a million gallons of untreated wastewater.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection said a blockage in the 15-inch sewer line that connects the eastern half of the Loring Commerce Center (formerly the Loring Air Force Base) to the Greater Limestone Utilities District led to the discharge into Greenlaw Stream and the surrounding wetlands. The discharge has likely occurred over the past several weeks but was only discovered Monday as the sewer line is in a remote area that had limited access until after the spring melt.

A build-up of several basketball sized rocks and a rubber traffic cone clogged the line, leading to its eventual back-up, said Bill Sheehan, an environmental specialist from Maine DEP’s Presque Isle office. The line repair was completed Wednesday and wastewater is now flowing normally to the treatment plant.

Water samples taken by department scientists in the stream, popular for fishing and fiddlehead picking this time of year, showed levels of E.coli nearly as high as those typically found in raw wastewater.

“As a precautionary measure, the department is recommending the public avoid contact with the water in and around that stream due to the potential to come into contact with the bacteria,” said Brian Kavanah, director of Maine DEP’s Division of Water Quality Management.

Cleanup and recovery of the waste in the wetlands began today and is being carried out by DEP staff in partnership with those from the Greater Limestone Utilities District and U.S. Fish and Wildlife. They’ll also continue to monitor water quality and alert the public when it returns to normal, something expected this month.

Notices about the contamination are being posted at access points along the stream.