Friends of Merrymeeting Bay
P.O. Box 233
Richmond, ME 04357
To: Susan P. Davies, Water Quality Standards Coordinator
Maine Department of Environmental Protection
Augusta, Maine 04333
From: Ed Friedman, Chair, FOMB. Ph. 666-3372, firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Water Re-Classification Proposal
River/Sections: Androscoggin from Durham Boat Launch or Worumbo Dam to Merrymeeting Bay [line between Pleasant Pt., Topsham and North Bath].
Proposed Upgrade: C to B
Basis for Proposal: Actual conditions exceed those of present classification.
Documentation: Supporting data from FOMB monitoring program.
Data Collection Periods: DO-2001 to present; Coliform-2006-present.
Sampling Intervals: Monthly: April-October plus rain events for coliform.
Proposal Date: 6/30/2008
Please consider this our formal upgrade proposal for the lower section of the Androscoggin River between Merrymeeting Bay at the line from Pleasant Pt. in Topsham to North Bath extending upriver to Worumbo Dam in Lisbon Falls or the Durham Boat Launch. While we sample at and include DO data from the Durham Boat Launch, our next site moving upriver is not until below the O2 diffuser in Gulf Island Pond so we cannot provide any further data from the reach that includes the cities of Lewiston and Auburn.
If using the Boat Launch to define a river segment for this proposal meets with the Department’s approval, our DO data support the proposed change to that point. Another option, if you have further supporting data we do not, is extending the re-classification to Lewiston/Auburn or Deer Rips Dam.
Failing these two possibilities, we recommend using Worumbo Dam as the upstream limit of this proposal. As our data show, while classified as C, this section has long been on the cusp of, or actually meeting, Class B standards. We therefore propose an upgrade from C to B on this section.
MDEP water quality data on the Androscoggin focus heavily on Gulf Island Pond. It appears that FOMB has the most complete set of classification data for the reaches in this proposal. We began our monitoring program in 1999 and continue to this day with over twenty sampling sites on the Androscoggin, Kennebec and around Merrymeeting Bay. FOMB is not EPA certified however, we train cooperatively with Friends of Casco Bay [who is] and on a yearly basis our volunteers are recertified for measuring DO, pH, turbidity, temperatures and coliform bacteria.
Because the actual water quality of the Androscoggin sections described here exceed that of their current classification, our request for a reclassification from C to B is supported by the State antidegradation policy as quoted below:
“ When the actual quality of any classified water exceeds the minimum standards of the next highest classification, that higher water quality must be maintained and protected. The board shall recommend to the Legislature that that water be reclassified in the next higher classification.”
In the past MDEP has sometimes said they can’t upgrade a river classification because under worse case [permitted] scenarios, proposed Class B [in this case] standards might be violated. At the same time, the Department has also said because receiving waters meet the current classification levels, Maine cannot upgrade classifications to meet actual conditions
This condition, while often supported by industry, quite clearly violates the intent of the Clean Water Act and NPDES and creates an artificial ceiling on water quality improvement. In fact, reclassification and permitting must be used together to improve water quality. The Supreme Judicial Court of Maine states in Bangor Hydro Electric v. BD. OF ENV. PROT., 1991 ME, 595 A.2d 438 that the BEP must consider state water reclassification when engaged in the permitting process and that “classification is goal oriented as required by the federal Clean Water Act”.
And from the DEP Submission Guidelines:
Maine’s Water Quality Classification System is goal-based.
When proposing an upgrade in classification, recommend waters that either presently attain or with reasonable application of improved treatment or Best Management Practices (BMPs), could reasonably be expected to attain, the standards and criteria of a higher proposed class.
Information to be Submitted with Re-Classification Proposals
1. Waterbody Name: Androscoggin River
2. Location of proposed change in classification
Provide features easily identified on a DeLorme Atlas map or include Geographic Information System (GIS) coordinates and/or submit a map with the proposed area clearly marked;
Provide the geographic limits of the proposed change;
From Durham Boat Launch or Worumbo Dam, Lisbon Falls to mouth of the Androscoggin in Merrymeeting Bay.
3. Write a brief statement that justifies why the waterbody should be considered for classification change.
This section of the Androscoggin should be considered for an upgrade because the actual conditions exceed those of a Class C waterway and meet those of Class B water. The Androscoggin often seems to be the forgotten river when it comes to requiring and enforcing improvements in water quality or for that matter, fish passage.
It was not long ago that the river was considered one of the ten dirtiest rivers in the country. Water quality has improved over time however, and we have the data to support that fact. It is only fitting the old classifications are upgraded to reflect current conditions. The Androscoggin deserves the respect and attention afforded other rivers in Maine.
4. State how the proposed change will affect other users of the waterbody, for example holders of wastewater or stormwater discharge permits or holders of land-development permits.
Our monitoring readings, with very few exceptions, meet Class B standards. Exceptions in the recent past have been limited to sampling dates preceded by precipitation within the prior two days or to readings taken after rain events [considered 2” or more]. Elevated coliform bacteria in particular, are indicative of rain events and may reflect stormwater or wastewater discharges as well as general runoff. While under normal conditions these sources appear to be under control and within limits, during high rain events there appears to be room for improvement, as is the case nearly everywhere, at wastewater and stormwater facilities.
5. Provide water quality data if available (and source of data), that documents the attainment status of the candidate waterbody relative to the designated uses and criteria of the proposed classification.
See attached. Methodology used for DO sampling is the Winkler titration technique and for fecal coliform testing, Coliscan kits are used. We purchase all of our sampling materials from Lamotte. We have substituted 1for zero in calculating geometric mean when no fecal colonies are present and our incubating and counting are done in a lab at Bowdoin College.
6. Provide a summary of known human activities in the watershed of the proposed re-classification that might jeopardize attainment of standards of the proposed classification, for example land-use altering activities, landfills, hazardous waste sites, wastewater discharges, etc.
The Androscoggin watershed has it all, from pristine shores to the full spectrum of land use activities altering both landscape and water quality. Along the proposed section there are gravel pits, agricultural and forested lands, landfills, wastewater discharges from industries and from municipalities. On the Sabattus River, a local tributary, we know there are hazardous waste sites associated with Miller Industries.
While there may be problems associated with some of these land uses, they do not appear to be preventing compliance with DO and bacteria levels required for Class B waters. As I mentioned earlier; “classification is goal oriented as required by the federal Clean Water Act”. That a land use could jeopardize compliance with the proposed classification some time in the future is irrelevant, since one aim of the Clean Water Act is to use increasingly higher classifications and attainment goals to continually improve water quality.
We appreciate the opportunity to comment on this matter and submit our proposal. We hope that the Department will support this proposal and carry it forward to the legislature. If we can be of further assistance in speaking for the proposal at legislative or other levels please don’t hesitate to call. Thank you very much for your efforts in this matter.
Ed Friedman, Chair
Coliform Bacteria Data
Nick Bennett, NRCM
John Burrows, ASF
Neil Ward, ARA
Joe Payne, FOCB
Steve Brook, SPO
Barry Mower, MDEP
Stew Fefer, USFWS
Steve Silva, EPA
Vanessa Levesque, Brunswick
Doug Watts, FKS