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Water District Makes Procedural Changes After Casco Bay Sewage Spill

Willis Ryder Arnold
Maine Public
East End beach and trail closed in July after an estimated million gallon sewage spill from Portland's wastewater treatment plant.

In July, 1.7 million gallons of mostly-treated sewage poured into Casco Bay after an employee failed to open a release valve.

Maine's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) says a sewage the spill was a violation of the city's wastewater treatment license, and the water district will be subject to a fine.

Portland Water District Director Of Wastewater Services Scott Firmin says the utility did what it's supposed to do when there's an incident.

“We violated our permit, we're issued a permit to discharge, and that's what we operate under,” he says. “So if we violate that permit, we report it to the state.”

Firmin says that since reporting the incident to the state, the district has changed operating procedures to make sure a spill of this kind doesn't happen again. The district is also looking into systems that will send an alert automatically in the event of a high water level.

“Finally we added a requirement to our daily rounds: twice a day an operator will go down and verify that the gates are in a position they need to be in,” Firmin says.

According to the Bangor Daily News, the DEP notified the Portland Water District of the spill last month.

Nora is originally from the Boston area but has lived in Chicago, Michigan, New York City and at the northern tip of New York state. Nora began working in public radio at Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor and has been an on-air host, a reporter, a digital editor, a producer, and, when they let her, played records.