2019 Beaches Conference Concurrent 2 Long Descriptions – Improving Coastal Water Quality

Improving Coastal Water Quality

As a recurring topic from previous conferences, this session aims to update the audience on the state-of-the-science regarding fecal source tracking efforts in coastal environments. Speakers will cover information on traditional and innovative approaches to fecal source tracking, as well as the successes and challenges with these approaches in specific watersheds and on a larger coastal New England scale.

Laura Diemer

Who’s Polluting the Water? Pointing the Finger in the Right Direction

Over the past 20 years, we have utilized molecular methods to identify sources of bacterial pollution at beaches in NH and Maine. Recently, Microbial Source Tracking and (to a lesser extent) bacterial

community analyses have become an important part of beach monitoring for communities experiencing unsafe levels of bacterial contamination in the water. The data we have generated over the course of these projects represents findings from different areas over time and thus holds insights into sources of contamination and timing of pollution that is unique and informative. We will present a summary of our approach as well as trends and important findings from these studies.

Stephen Jones
Audrey Berenson

Expanding the Fecal Source Tracking Toolbox to Better Remediate Human Fecal Pollution to Goose Rocks Beach, Kennebunkport

Kennebunkport’s Goose Rocks Beach (GRB) is a popular summer destination valued by the local community as well as seasonal visitors each year. Over the past 14 years, routine beach monitoring has confirmed persistent unsafe bacteria levels at the beach and throughout the watershed, threatening public health and local economies. In response, Kennebunkport partnered with Maine Healthy Beaches (MHB) to expand monitoring efforts beyond the shoreline to identify, remediate, and prevent fecal sources. These efforts incorporated multiple toolbox parameters including traditional fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) and optical brightener (OB) methods in addition to emerging microbial source tracking (MST) techniques. Since 2016, MHB has partnered with University of New Hampshire researchers to incorporate MST tools to several ongoing watershed assessments to augment FIB and OB analyses by discriminating specific host source(s) contributing to observed fecal contamination. Data have been used by local municipalities and resource managers to prioritize remediation efforts and focus resources on identifying potential human sources. The audience will learn how Kennebunkport continues to collaborate with partners and local volunteers to use the data collected to address ongoing pollution issues, improve current monitoring methods, and inform future watershed assessments.

Meagan Sims

Reflecting on the Success of Remediating Fecal Pollution to the Medomak River Using a Collaborative Task Force

The Medomak River is a 32.3-mile-long Maine river with its headwaters in Liberty and its head of tide in Waldoboro, where the tidal portion of the river continues into Muscongus Bay. Elevated levels of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) from nonpoint sources have caused some sections of the Medomak to be prohibited to shellfish harvesting while other areas experience conditional closures. Despite these challenges, local clammers in Waldoboro have maintained their standing as the most productive harvesters of softshell clams in Maine. In 2013, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the Maine Department of Marine Resources, the Town of Waldoboro/Shellfish Committee, the University of Maine, and the Medomak Valley Land Trust formed a collaborative task force to address sources of fecal contamination to the river. With swift and supportive responses from the utility district and landowners, this task force has successfully remediated many sources of fecal contamination including numerous wastewater connection problems, and most notably, a broken factory condenser system. In 2017, the Town of Waldoboro received a Maine 604(b) grant to create a watershed plan for the river. A watershed plan is a ten-year planning document outlining steps toward continued water quality improvement. This presentation reflects on the approaches that have made this collaborative task force successful over the past five years and aims to provide the audience with strategies for addressing this persistent contaminant in other coastal Maine rivers.

Margaret Burns
Julie Keizer