BANGOR, Maine — Workers who violated a city ordinance by discharging old water from an inground swimming pool on Falvey Street directly into a nearby catch basin that empties into a nearby brook has led the city to issue a reminder about safely draining swimming pools.
The pool water contained chlorine and should have been filtered through the lawn, Wynne Guglielmo, environmental coordinator for Bangor, said Monday.
“Since most catch basins in Bangor drain directly to a stream, draining a swimming pool directly into a catch basin can add chlorine and other chemicals into a stream,” she said in a press release issued Thursday. “These chemicals have a negative impact on the health of the stream.”
Guglielmo initially was told by two employees of a local pool company hired to replace the liner that the pool being drained had not been treated with chlorine, she said. The workers were inside the pool when she arrived on May 7. She recorded an elevated level of sodium chloride, or salt, in Arctic Brook in the report she filed later in the day. The discharge hose was moved so the pumped water ran onto the lawn and the workers were warned that Bangor has a nonstormwater discharge ordinance. The ordinance allows the city to levy a fine against the person or company responsible and require they pay for any damages or fines associated with any federal violation.
“I also informed them that the Maine DEP did not allow potentially chlorinated pool water to be directly discharged into a catch basin,” Guglielmo’s report states.
“Additional investigation did prove that the pool water was chlorinated,” she said Monday.
The Bangor Water District made the discovery after “The manager of the pool company provided me with this information on Thursday, May 9, late in the afternoon.”
There was green slime on the pool water, which is an indicator the chlorine was not active, Guglielmo said in her report.
“When chlorine is used up, it becomes other chemicals, especially chloride salts,” biologist Mark Whiting of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection said Monday. “This is why you have to keep adding chlorine to a pool, it is used up quickly when in contact with organic materials.”
If the discharged pool water had been heavily chlorinated it could have killed fish downstream.
“I don’t expect any impact on the Kenduskeag,” Whiting said. “However the high salts in Arctic … may be one of the reasons Arctic Brook is so poor in wildlife.”
The salt levels in Arctic Brook taken when the pool discharge was reported were elevated, but had dropped to around 650 milligrams per liter on Friday.
“She had values of 14,000 milligrams per liter. Normal [sodium] chloride would be like 30,” for the contaminated brook that currently does not support life, Whiting said.
“I’ve never seen a living thing in here,” the water quality expert said, while turning over rocks taken from the brook’s bed.
Arctic Brook starts near Bangor High School and makes its way by culvert under the Broadway Shopping Center until it “reaches daylight” near Interstate 95. It travels along the highway until about where the big curve appears on Falvey Street, then goes under the highway and Kenduskeag Avenue by culvert and drains into the Kenduskeag Stream, along Valley Avenue.
The DEP is keeping an eye on all of the Queen City’s waterways, with seven that are impacted or polluted, Whiting said, listing Birch Stream by Bangor International Airport; Penjajawoc Stream along Stillwater Avenue; Shaw Brook near Odlin Road; Meadow Brook Stream near Essex Street; Capehart Brook near Pushaw Road; Sucker Brook near the I-95 and I-395 interchange; and Arctic Brook.
“Meadowbrook, Arctic, Sucker and Shaw are all very urban and very impacted,” he said. “Penjajawoc and Meadowbrook are kind of scenic and have wildlife.”
Except for Arctic Brook, “all the others have fish, including Birch Stream that has seen a lot of improvement from a partnership between the Maine Air National Guard base, Bangor International Airport, and the city who have invested a lot of money,” Whiting said.
The city, DEP and stakeholders have been meeting and working together over the last few years to remediate impacted streams and there are visible improvements, Whiting said.
“Things are looking up,” he said. “Volunteers [and watershed groups] have been a really good development.”
In fact, Maine’s waterways are ranked as some of the nicest along the East Coast, said Ken Locke, Brewer’s environmental services director, who said he has spent years educating residents about what can and cannot be dumped into catch basins.
Education is key to protecting the Penobscot River and others, which were polluted for years by homes and businesses located along its banks, Locke said. The Clean Water Act of 1970, sponsored by then U.S. Sen. Edmund S. Muskie, D-Maine, did a lot to clean up the country’s rivers, streams and lakes, he said.
Bangor High School students enrolled in SEEDs, the Students for Ending Environmental Destruction, and Eastern Maine Community College students are assisting local DEP officials with collecting and testing water samples from various waterways, Whiting said.
Volunteers have also helped to protect the region’s waterways by picking up trash during annual stream cleanups, he said. The annual Penobscot River cleanup in Brewer is scheduled for May 18 and Bangor’s annual stream cleanup is June 1.
“Also, we need volunteers to help label our catch basins-storm sewers with markers,” Guglielmo said.
With warmer weather just around the corner, Whiting and Guglielmo say now is the time to prevent chlorine and other swimming pool chemicals from getting into watersheds.
“Please help prevent pollution in Bangor’s streams by letting your pool sit untreated for five to seven days before draining it to allow some of the chemicals to dissipate,” Guglielmo said. “For additional filtering, let the pool water cross a lawn before entering a drainage structure or ditch.”
Those with questions about draining their swimming pools can contact Wynne Guglielmo at 992-4255.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated there was no chlorine in the discharged pool water.