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Municipal Guide To Clean Water: Conducting Sanitary Surveys to Improve Coastal Water Quality

Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP):

Depending on the area, the DEP may have relevant water- shed information and/or water quality data. The DEP is responsible for permitting discharges related to stormwa- ter, wastewater, etc. DEP sanitary surveys, performed in re- sponse to citizen complaints or requests for assistance from state agency partners, the MHB Program, or municipalities, entail house-to-house septic system checks and may in- clude dye testing and water monitoring. I f a septic system problem is brought to the attention of the municipality, the municipality is statutorily required to issue an abatement order. Most property owners do correct their problems voluntarily; however, additional enforcement from the DEP may be necessary to correct the problem. DEP profes- sionals have the expertise and experience working with malfunctioning subsurface wastewater disposal systems and may be able to pr ovide support to municipalities.

Under the Clean Water Act, DEP produces Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Reports (305b re- ports) summarizing water quality data from various sources. Water bodies that do not meet standards for one or more designated uses are considered impaired and are placed on the 303(d) list. DEP classifies water bodies according to their designated uses and pollutant levels. DEP has developed a list of priority watersheds based on the degree of impairment, the value of the water body, the likelihood of successful protection, and the extent of local support for management. The purpose of the list is to provide guidance to watershed managers in determining where additional resources (e.g.,

grant money) may be most beneficial.

In some cases, a watershed survey may have been conducted by a local lake or watershed association or other non-governmental organization, and DEP may have information about previous watershed surveys.21

Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) Public Health Division:

DMR divides Maine’s coast into 45 Shellfish Growing Areas, classified as Approved, Conditionally Approved, Restricted, Conditionally Restricted, or Prohibited.16 Clas- sification is based on a sanitary survey of the shoreline, routine fecal coliform bacteria monitoring, and analysis of environmental conditions and distribution of pollutants.


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The DMR’s shoreline survey is a periodic inspection of all possible sources of pollution within 500 feet of the shoreline. If pollution sources are identified, the DMR notifies the municipality and the appropriate agencies. Surveys are renewed a minimum of every 12 years with problematic areas reviewed every three years. Municipal staff may assist DMR upon request to complete sanitary shoreline survey work. For more information see DMR’s 2010 Growing Area Standard Operating Procedures.16

To assist in shellfish growing area classification, fecal coli- form bacteria samples are collected at least six times per year per station, and some areas are monitored more intensely. Bacteria data collected by the DMR can help identify con- taminated areas and provide information for beach-related sanitary survey work. If the beach area(s) overlap with a shellfish classification area, efforts can be combined to ad- dress pollution sources affecting both resources. Contact the DMR to find information about the status of the shoreline survey for a particular shellfish growing area.

Maine Department of Health and Human Services:

DHHS can provide information on standards, types, op- eration, and maintenance of wastewater disposal systems and technical support regarding malfunctioning septic systems. The Maine Center for Disease Control Subsurface Wastewater Disposal Program established rules for creat- ing a reliable method of subsurface wastewater system design and installation, requiring that a Maine Licensed Site Evaluator perform a site evaluation and complete an HHE-200 form. The local plumbing inspector issues a permit, and inspects construction. DHHS also has the authority to enforce an abatement order and to fine a municipality for inaction if necessary. The Drinking Water Program may have inspected the watershed of concern as part of the Source Water Assessment Program. States are required to identify the land areas which provide water to each public drinking water source and to assess the exist- ing and potential sources of contamination in those areas.

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