Friday, January 20, 2012

Kittery Officials Finding Source of Bacterial Contamination to Spruce Creek

After two years of investigation, Kittery is making significant progress in finding the sources of the bacterial contamination of Spruce Creek—which has kept shellfish beds closed for several years—according to studies presented at the Kittery Town Council meeting Monday evening.
The studies are a part of the Spruce Creek Watershed Improvement Project, which is a four-year effort to determine the causes of poor quality in the creek and find ways to reduce or eliminate the pollutants that cause the problems.
“Spruce Creek is an impaired water body, and the primary impairment is bacteria, which is why we’re here,” said Forrest Bell, owner of FB Environmental (FBE), which has conducted the studies. “The Town and the Spruce Creek Association have been very successful in getting Maine DEP grant funds from the Federal Section 319 program over the last four years.”
“We’re now in the fourth year of grant-funded projects that are making a lot of changes on the ground to address some of these bacteria and storm water issues,” he said. “Spruce Creek is actually a model in Maine and New England as far as water quality protection [goes].”
The most recent studies have focused upon measuring the water quality coming from outfall pipes that discharge into Spruce Creek. They found the presence of harmful bacteria in levels that are 10, 20 or 30 times above the legal limits as measured by e-coli bacteria, said Bell.
Bell notes that shellfish beds have been closed for many years and the goal of the work is to clean up the bacterial contamination and re-open the beds. “It’s quite a goal to obtain, but little by little we’re taking steps.”
Results from an initial 2009 investigation showed outfalls had exceedingly high levels of bacteria in wet weather and even during dry weather—a bad sign, according to FBE project manager, Emily DiFranco.
This was especially true at outfalls in Admiralty Village, she said. After discovering these high levels, the FBE was hired by the Town to conduct additional sampling to try and get a better handle on where the bacteria was coming from in this area, [a] former Portsmouth Naval Shipyard housing.
DiFranco was helped by the Kittery Department of Public Works, which provided mobile cameras that traveled up drainage pipes in Admiralty Village to find the sources of bacteria-laden drainage.
“When we found one nonfunctional catch basin—the Sewer Department Works was out there the next day to fill it in,” she said. “I’ve never seen a town act so quickly.”
In the course of the investigation, researchers found catch basins on private property in Admiralty Village that drained, even during dry weather, with high concentrations of bacteria. Other significant sites with high bacteria counts included culverts at Picot Road, Haley Road at Trafton Road and Cole Avenue.
“There are still a lot of potential places and things that we haven’t found,” she added.
Bell said they would seek additional funding from the town to pinpoint the problem areas so that steps may be taken to remediate them.
Kittery’s new town manager, Robert Markel, formerly town manager of Ipswich, Massachusetts, knows the value of removing sources of bacterial contamination to shellfish beds.
“It was an eye-opening presentation, how they had done that great detective work and found that one pipe that was red-lined,” he said. “That’s clearly the kind of work that needs to be done.”
“Going forward, if water quality in Spruce Creek is going to be improved—and everyone seems to want that—this is the kind of work that is essential,” he said.
“All the shellfish areas are open [in Ipswich], whereas if you go back 15 years, there were portions of the town that were permanently closed—so it does work,” he said.
“I see the possibility of bringing back a very important resource for the town,” he said.
This article provided by David Ramsay, Spruce Creek Watershed Improvement Project Manager. FMI: