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Preparing for a Sanitary Survey

Part I. Preparing for a Sanitary Survey

What is a sanitary survey?

The goal of a sanitary survey is to identify and document sources of bacterial contamination affecting water re- sources (e.g., coastal beaches, shellfish growing areas, and freshwater inputs to these areas), so they can be eliminated.

Maintaining clean water requires continuous oversight to identify and eliminate sources of pollution. Generally, actual and potential sources of pollution are identified only after water quality problems have been documented. In order to protect public health by preventing pollution- related illnesses, a proactive rather than a reactive ap- proach is essential for maintaining healthy water quality conditions. A sanitary survey is a proactive way to protect human health and the environment. This guide considers all potential sources of bacterial pollution along the shore- line, within the relevant watershed or sub-watershed area, and offshore.

Who conducts a sanitary survey?

The Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) con- ducts routine sanitary shoreline surveys of all potential contaminants 500 feet beyond the shoreline adjacent to shellfish growing areas.16 The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) sanitary survey is a house-to-house search of malfunctioning subsurface wastewater disposal systems. The DEP provides wa- tershed survey support to communities and non-profit organizations who are examining a larger array of pol- lutants impacting water quality.

The watershed area draining to a beach and/or shell- fish growing area may be shared by multiple towns or entities. A shared watershed underscores the importance of working across town boundaries to find and fix pollu- tion sources.

WHERE TO BEGIN

Sanitary survey work can be completed by a cadre of state agency partners and local municipal staff. In fact, due to the scarcity of resources at all levels, state and local collaboration is necessary to combine available resources for their most effective and efficient use. Municipalities share responsibility with DEP to take the lead and com- plete the work necessary to identify and remove pollution sources. The local plumbing inspector has the authority to survey properties for malfunctioning subsurface waste- water disposal systems, and this person may be asked to assist DEP/DMR staff in conducting sanitary surveys.

A sanitary survey is not necessarily a linear process. You may find yourself working backwards or starting in the middle of this guide. All aspects of the survey process outlined in this guide may not be relevant for the particular area(s) of concern. To be efficient and cost-effective, target human sources first! Start at the shoreline and progressively move back into the water- shed. Adapt bacteria management strategies to your unique watershed.18

Sarah Mosley

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