Maine Beaches: Open for Swimming

June 23, 2014

Jessamine Logan, Communications Director, or (207) 287-5842 Keri Kaczor, Maine Healthy Beaches Coordinator, UMaine Cooperative Extension, or (207) 832-0343

-The number of exceedances were up slightly in 2013 but overall Maine’s beaches were clean and open over 95 percent of the time -

AUGUSTA- With summer officially here this weekend, residents and tourists alike can be assured that Maine’s beaches are routinely monitored to protect public health and almost always open for swimming.

“I welcome both Maine residents and visitors to our coast and to feel confident that Maine’s beaches are clean, safe and open for swimming,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “Maine’s iconic coastline draws thousands of visitors each year who appreciate that Maine’s beaches are some of the cleanest in the country. On behalf of the Healthy Beaches program, I want to thank beachgoers for their care and stewardship of Maine’s beaches.”

The department-run Maine Healthy Beaches Program receives funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and staff support from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension to monitor water quality at Maine’s 55 public access beaches. In addition to monitoring, MHB staff delivered 36 technical trainings for 159 local staff and volunteers.

Program volunteers, municipal officials and state park employees collect samples which are analyzed for the enterococcus bacteria, which is an indication of the presence of fecal contamination from humans and animals including dogs and waterfowl.

In 2013, MHB processed over 2156 samples at 148 monitoring locations from the beaches in York County to Bar Harbor and 95 percent of the days were free of beach advisories or closures.

The number of exceedances rose slightly from 156 in 2012 to 176 in 2013. Nearly 85 percent of exceedances were preceded by rainfall.

In addition to record rainfall levels, the increase in beach action days in 2013 is likely linked to “precautionary rainfall advisories” which account for 61 beach action days, and the lag time in obtaining bacteria results. In some cases, beach managers kept the advisory in place until the next routine monitoring day.

Four beach management areas, Goodies, Old Orchard Beach Ocean Park, East End Beach and Goose Rocks, accounted for 40 percent of the reported beach action days in 2013.

Nonpoint source pollution is likely contributing to these exceedances, as stormwater runoff contaminated with the waste from humans, wildlife and pets is transported to the shoreline via freshwater inputs such as streams or rivers.

Commissioner Patricia Aho says that enhancing water quality in Maine takes everyone working together and changing their habits.

“We all have a role to play in keeping our beaches healthy and open. Seemingly small actions like picking up dog waste on a beach or at a river can make a big different to the overall water quality in Maine,” said Commissioner Aho. “Other best beach practices include routine septic maintenance, not feed waterfowl and other wildlife and not dump untreated boat sewage overboard.”

DEP created a handy and convenient QR code to identify all of the nearly 100 boater pump out stations along Maine’s coast. “I encourage boaters in Maine to save the QR code and use the pump out stations, whose hours of operation and locations are easily accessible for those with a smart phone,” said Commissioner Aho.

Beyond monitoring beach water quality for recreational uses, the program helps communities identify, eliminate and prevent sources of pollution by bringing together diverse process in a collaborative process focused on sharing resources and solving problems.

The MHB program is a voluntary program. Monitoring coastal water quality for swimming and other water contact usage is the responsibility of local jurisdictions. The public can view the monitoring results at Local beach managers make the decision to post an advisory or closure.