A popular beach in Maine is closed after untreated water from a sewage plant ended up in the ocean.
As New Englanders looked for ways to escape the heat over a weekend with temperatures in the 90s, Portlanders found the city’s East End Beach off limits after a power outage at a sewer plant Sunday morning caused an unknown amount of unsanitary wastewater to end up in Casco Bay adjacent to the beach.
“My primary concern was the lack of disinfection at the treatment facility,” said Scott Firmin, Director of Wastewater Services for the Portland Water District, which operates the plant.
Firmin is the one who notified the City of Portland about the problem, which prompted the beach closure.
In an interview with NECN/NBC 10 Boston on Monday, Firmin explained that both of the plants two backup generators did turn on when electricity from the Central Maine Power line that goes into the plant failed.
But while one assigned to pumps did produce electricity, the other started up but did not send any power to plant equipment, including the systems that sanitize the wastewater before its discharged.
It also caused a computer system disruption, which means data on how much wastewater wasn’t readily available and was still in the process of being retrieved as of Monday afternoon.
“I don’t know the volume,” said Firmin, adding “what we do know is from 8:15 a.m. to about 2:30 p.m. our disinfection process at the treatment facility wasn’t operating.”
According to the Portland Water District, samples of water were collected to check for bacteria to determine water safety on Monday.
Results were not expected until Tuesday, which was a let down for the dozens of people who walked up to the beach ready to take a swim, only to find out they’d have to go somewhere else.
“I was just going to take a quick dip in the ocean because I live right here, it’s too bad, I’ll probably go to Willard [Beach],” said Wyatt Jackson, who lives in Portland’s East End.
The water district expects the beach to be reopened by the City of Portland as soon as water sample results show there are no health hazards.