Limestone cleanup of sewage discharge should be complete soon

Posted May 16, 2011, at 5:20 p.m.
Last modified May 16, 2011, at 8:12 p.m.

LIMESTONE, Maine — By the end of the week, crews from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection should be finished cleaning up more than a million gallons of untreated wastewater that spilled into Greenlaw Stream last month.

Most of the wastewater has been cleaned up, according to Samantha Depoy-Warren, spokeswoman for the Maine DEP and its director of education and outreach. She said the rain that is expected to continue into Aroostook County this week will “help flush the remaining raw wastewater from Greenlaw Stream and the surrounding wetlands” and that DEP staff would continue to conduct water samples this week to see if any harmful bacteria levels remain.

The public is still being encouraged to avoid contact with water in and around the stream.

Vandals damaged the 15-inch sewer line, which connects the eastern half of the Loring Commerce Centre to the Greater Limestone Utilities District, by throwing basketball-size rocks and a traffic cone down a manhole. The material made its way through the pipe and caused the leak.

The discharge has likely occurred over the past several weeks, according to the DEP.

The area of the break is remote, according to Depoy-Warren, so it took awhile for it to be discovered. Work crews also had only limited access to the site until after the spring melt.

The line repair was completed last week and wastewater is now flowing normally to the treatment plant.

Water samples taken by department scientists last week at the stream, which is popular for fishing and fiddlehead picking this time of year, showed levels of E. coli nearly as high as those typically found in raw wastewater.

Cleanup and recovery of the waste in the wetlands began late last week and is being carried out by DEP staff in partnership with employees from the Greater Limestone Utilities District and U.S. Fish and Wildlife. They’ll also continue to monitor water quality and alert the public when it returns to normal, which is expected this month.

“A true collaborative effort up there between local, state and federal officials, including the Loring Development Authority, has helped to remediate this situation in a very timely manner and best protect public and environmental health,” said Depoy-Warren. “It is impressive what they have already been able to do up there under some not so desirable circumstances.”

Notices about the contamination have been posted at access points along the stream.