Portland trail to reopen after wastewater spill; water district could be fined

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PORTLAND — East End beach has reopened and the Eastern Promenade Trail has been repaired after a July 26 wastewater spill into Casco Bay.

But the Portland Water District could still be fined for the incident.

PWD spokeswoman Michelle Clements said the section of trail at the southern end of the plant’s retaining wall was going to be repaved Tuesday in time for the projected reopening on Wednesday.

Clements said the spill of a million gallons of wastewater caused at least $30,000 and as much as $50,000 in damage to the trail and PWD treatment facilities. The utility performed the needed repairs and rebuilt the trail.

While assessing damages and completing repairs, PWD may also face punitive action from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

“There are a number of options for the department to consider,” DEP spokesman David Madore said in an email Monday. “The treatment facility staff has five days to submit a report of the event to the department for staff review and possible enforcement action.”

Clements said the report was nearly complete and would be submitted this week.

The wastewater spilled into Casco Bay for about three hours. While there had been rainy weather during the week, the spill was caused by human error, not rainfall, Clements said July 26.

On July 25, PWD workers had drained a tank used for the final stages of wastewater decontamination. The water typically enters the tank and is treated with chlorine; then the chlorine is removed and the water flows into Casco Bay. The entire process takes about 30 minutes.

However, the valves leading to the tank were not reopened. “This would not have occurred if the valves were open,” Clements said.

The spill began around 4:45 a.m. and was noticed by someone on the trail, who contacted the city.

The entire trail bordering the treatment plant was closed. East End Beach was reopened July 27 after testing, but the city kept an advisory in place on swimming through the next day, as bacteria counts remained slightly elevated.

The spill also put the 36th annual Peaks to Portland swim in doubt on July 28, since it finishes at East End Beach, but the event did go on as planned. 

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

A July 26 wastewater spill at the PWD treatment plant in Portland caused a section of the Eastern Promenade Trail to collapse. The repaired trail was expected to open Aug. 1.

By July 30, the collapsed section of the Eastern Promenade Trail in Portland had been refilled and regraded, with repaving set for July 31. The wastewater spill caused at least $30,000 in damages, according to the PWD.

Spectators gather on East End Beach in Portland Saturday for the arrival of swimmers from Peaks Island. Although a wastewater spill July 26 and fog on Saturday morning threatened to cancel or delay the event, 389 swimmers participated in the 2.4-mile race.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.