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Maine Healthy Beaches Program: Working Together to Improve Coastal Water Quality
The Maine Healthy Beaches Program is committed to improving beach water quality by bringing together local and state officials, nonprofits, and citizens with a focus on sharing resources and solving problems. Program staff provide tools and strategies on how to find, fix, and prevent sources of bacterial pollution impacting beach water quality.
Beaches are valued resources and elevated bacteria levels degrade marine systems, threaten public health and the local economy. In response to persistent bacteria issues, the Maine Healthy Beaches (MHB) Program has conducted intensified monitoring studies to track pollution sources in river, stream and storm drainage networks. Enterococci, the US EPA-recommended indicator of fecal contamination in marine waters, does not specify the source(s) of bacterial pollution. Since 2008, the MHB Program has partnered with US EPA Region 1 to expand monitoring studies to include fluorometry which measures concentrations of optical brighteners, fluorescent whitening additives in laundry soaps, detergents, textiles and paper products. High optical brightener concentrations coupled with elevated Enterococci bacteria levels can be a marker of human-sourced fecal contamination.
Watershed areas likely impacted by human sources are priority for conducting in-depth sanitary surveys to pinpoint malfunctioning subsurface waste water disposal (septic) systems. MHB Program and US EPA staff will share the successful application of fluorometry in target watersheds, the source-tracking toolbox and other strategies to find, fix and prevent sources of bacterial pollution impacting beach water quality.
Last updated on May 18, 2011
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