Much of our advocacy efforts are geared toward keeping bad stuff out of the Bay. While our Baykeeper position is in transition, our staff continue to tackle Baykeeping issues in our community. In the past few months, we have been working on:
Sewage discharges from commercial development on Great Diamond Island
Friends of Casco Bay recently commented on a discharge permit application by the developers of a residential hotel, Diamond Cove Associates, on Great Diamond Island. We raised several issues and pointed out that the State had mistakenly represented the area around Great Diamond Island as Class SC waters. Rather, we demonstrated that the waters around the island are Class SB which requires more stringent protection. We also raised several other issues regarding the impact on water quality by the proposed discharges.
A few weeks later we received a letter from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Nearly all of our objections had been incorporated into DEP’s response to the developer’s attorney, as well as the permit the agency issued for the project. Hooray!
Portland ordinance: Plastic bags and polystyrene packaging
For over two years, Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell worked with the City of Portland’s Transportation /Sustainability Committee on proposals to regulate plastic bags and polystyrene. A long-time Portland resident herself, she worked as a member of the Green Packaging Task Force to craft ordinances that encourage consumers to convert to reusable bags and that require retailers to limit the use of polystyrene packaging. On April 15, 2015, local retailers will begin charging customers $0.05 for each plastic or paper shopping bag they use to package purchased goods. The packaging ordinance prohibits restaurants, cafeterias, coffee shops, food trucks, and other food service establishments from distributing their products in polystyrene foam packaging.
Portland Stormwater Utility Fee
Portland City Council’s passage of the proposed structure for applying stormwater utility fees to all users on January 21, 2015, was the result of many months of work to create an equitable to fee structure. Cathy Ramsdell and Joe Payne participated in these deliberations as community stakeholders, at the invitation of Portland’s Public Services Department. In 2014, we sent out three separate email alerts to our members and supporters to engage them in the process. The service fee goes into effect on January 1, 2016, allowing property owners time to incorporate “green practices” such as installing permeable pavement or rain gardens. These measures can reduce rainwater runoff and lower their stormwater bill.
Pesticides and Fertilizers
Increasingly, community activists and conservation commissions are contacting us to ask about how they can limit the use of lawn chemicals in their communities. Some are looking to do education and outreach; others are considering measures to ban pesticides and fertilizers on public property (as in Scarborough) and on private property (as in Ogunquit). As the movement to stop using lawn chemicals gains momentum, Maine landscapers and arborists have invited us to participate in a dialogue with their members in April.
We look forward to workshops with professional pesticide applicators to share our data showing that pesticides are indeed flowing into the Bay. We will explain research that may suggest that excess nitrogen from fertilizers and other sources may negatively impact clam flats where shellfish live. We will seek to find common ground on how we all can protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. FMI, go to cascobay.org/bayscaping
Weakening snow dumping rules
Nearly twice-weekly snowstorms this winter have made it challenging for many municipalities to find enough places to dispose of the snow plowed from city streets. Some public works officials wanted to dump snow directly into the ocean, which requires an exemption from the Department of Environmental Protection. We worked with the City of Portland’s Public Works Department and the DEP to ensure that they seek alternative sites and resist the temptation to dump polluted snow into Casco Bay.
DEP already allows communities to store plowed snow up to 20 feet from the ocean, about the width of a two-lane road. We oppose this practice, insisting that snow dumps should be at least 100 feet from the ocean, as they must be for freshwater ponds and lakes. FMI, read our Snow Dump Bay Paper
In early 2015, we sent an email alert to our members and supporters, and Cathy testified before the Environment and Natural Resources Committee about a bill to phase out the use of plastic microbeads in personal care products. Tiny plastic particles, found in shaving cream, facial scrubs, cosmetics, and other personal care products, pass through water treatment facilities and into our rivers, streams, and coastal waters. Microbeads are ingested by shellfish and then by people who eat clams, mussels, and oysters. After conservationists and industry lobbyists testified in support of phasing out these insidious plastics, the Committee passed the bill on to the full legislature with a unanimous recommendation “ought to pass.” LD 85 passed the House 145-1 and the Senate 35-0 and is now a law.
You can read Friends of Casco Bay’s tesimony here.