Until the last week or so, it’s been a dry spring here in Maine and so most of us have welcomed the recent spate of rain. But as I rode past the Back Cove and the East End Wastewater treatment plant in Portland this morning, it was hard not to think about the downside of all this rain–the runoff from streets, rooftops and other hard surfaces that overwhelms our sewer system and treatment facilities and washes untreated right into Back Cove and Casco Bay, carrying pollutants like oil, metals, waste and other accumulated debris along with it. It’s no surprise that these concerns might occur to me, given CLF’s long-standing involvement in tackling this issue, but it doesn’t take an advocate to see the need for action. For Chris Aceto, CLF’s landlord here at 47 Portland Street in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood, a recent article by Seth Koenig of the Bangor Daily News brought back some not so great memories of a dirtier Casco Bay and was a reminder that we still have a lot of work to do:
“I am 46. My mother used to take me to the East End Beach when I was 6 which would have been 1972. I can remember it so clearly because although I was 6, I thought, “This is not a beach!!” You could SEE the raw sewage like some kind of movie footage! I think she wanted me to see the “beach” she went to when she was a little girl. My brother was the first lifeguard hired when that beach was opened up for swimming. It may have been 1979 or so. My cousins used to have a place at Peaks Island and NO ONE wanted to go there because the Ferry used to pull in to the docks on Commercial Street and you could not “see” water – it was brown, gross, stinky filth floating on top of the water.
Once the city showed some initiative to clean the water and build its first treatment plant, economically, Portland started to turn around. I am sure I am preaching here to the choir, but that article just brought back a ton of memories.” — Chris Aceto
Thanks to Chris for recounting that story that reminds us all about how important our continued vigilance is on finding short-term and long-term solutions to the problem of polluted runoff fouling our waterways, not just here in Portland, but around Maine and the country.
The City of Portland has made good progress in the past few years, but there remains a good deal of work to do. CLF will continue to push for a solution that will allow us to stop sending untreated pollution and sewage to Casco Bay.