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Scarborough tries to get ahead on Red Brook watershed protection

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Scarborough tries to get ahead on Red Brook watershed protection

SCARBOROUGH — Longtime residents may remember skating on Pollywonkie Pond in the winter, seeing birds of prey soaring overhead in the summer, and enjoying the peaceful tranquility of Red Brook, which flowed through Scarborough and South Portland until the 1970s.

Today the river has been pushed aside, literally, to make room for what a Wal-Mart and Lowe's parking lot, and ramps for Interstate 95.

Red Brook has been labeled an impaired urban stream by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection since 2002, threatened by polluted run-off and erosion from the paved surfaces around the lower section of the river, and high levels of the industrial chemical PCB in its fish.

"We've identified problems with the stream habitat and we're planning additional studies to identify specific problem areas," DEP's Wendy Gardiner said.

However, the town wants to see Red Brook's situation improved. It is beginning the process of creating a watershed management plan for the area by hosting a public meeting for everyone who lives, owns property or works in the area.

"This meeting is the kickoff to a public process," Planning Director Dan Bacon said. "We want to engage the property owners and the public first."

Sections of Red Brook, particularly the western sections, are still in very good shape. However the town's goal is to protect those sections, which are slated for development, before the building begins.

"Scarborough wanted to be one stop ahead. They wanted to start protecting the resources so we can develop, but develop in a responsible way," said Betty Williams, who works for the Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District.

Bacon said the town wants to avoid repeating what happened to Long Creek, which ended up with a federal mandate to clean up the watershed, requiring costly renovations to road surfaces and and buildings in the area.

"That's another whole level of complexity that we're trying to avoid in Red Brook," Bacon said.

The community meeting will be held May 18 at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at the Scarborough Municipal Building. Those looking for more information should contact Betty Williams at 892-4700 or betty-williams@cumberlandswcd.org.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net