Portland’s East End beach closed due to contamination fears

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Signs at the entrance to the East End Beach on Sunday tell swimmers that it is temporarily closed. Portland officials closed the beach on Sunday afternoon after a malfunction at the nearby sewage treatment facility. The beach will remain closed until water levels are tested to determine if it is safe, the city said. Brianna Soukup / Staff photographer

Portland officials closed East End Beach on Sunday after being told by the Portland Water District of a “malfunction” at the nearby East End sewage treatment plant.

Jessica Grondin, a spokesperson for the City of Portland, said the popular beach will remain closed until test results prove the water conditions are safe for swimmers.

The shutdown came after a Central Maine power line shutdown that supplies power to the power plant around 8:15 a.m. Sunday, according to Scott Firmin, director of the treatment plant. A back-up generator at the factory that failed to generate electricity further complicated the blackout.

As a result, an undetermined amount of wastewater discharge left the plant and entered Casco Bay, but was not completely disinfected, said Firmin. Power was restored at around 2:30 p.m. and a rented portable generator was brought in for safety.

“Our disinfection system was interrupted and out of caution, I called the city and notified them,” said Firmin on Sunday evening.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has also been notified. Firmin said he had to file a report with DEP explaining what had happened at the plant by Friday. He said the decision to reopen East End Beach will depend on the city after analyzing the test results.

The Portland Water District owns and operates the treatment plant, which serves 60,000 people and handles an average of 20 million gallons of water per day. The Water District says its facility, located just west of Interstate 295 between East Deering and Munjoy Hill, is the largest in the state.

The beach closure on Sunday marks the second time in two years that malfunctions in the treatment plan have forced the city to close East End Beach.

On July 26, 2018, the city temporarily closed East End Beach because a disinfection tank was not brought back online after being cleaned and a second tank was submerged by high flows caused by heavy rain during the night. When the reservoir overflowed, approximately 1.69 million gallons of partially treated sewage spilled out, flowing over an embankment and entering Casco Bay west of East End Beach and the boat launch. at the water.

The 2018 event also swept away the section of the Eastern Promenade trail that adjoins the processing plant. The Portland Water District attributed the spill to human error. Repairs to the footpath and treatment facility cost between $ 30,000 and $ 50,000.

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