YORK, Maine — The Cape Neddick River Association is writing a warrant article for the May ballot and getting out the word to promote funding for a $63,000 proposal to hire an expert to daily test bacteria levels not only at Cape Neddick Beach, but at three of York’s beaches.
While Cape Neddick waters often have shown high bacteria counts, so have Long Sands Beach and Short Sands Beach, association members said.
This is not just a Cape Neddick River problem, said Heidi Lumia, a spokesman for the association.
“They realize there’s a problem in Cape Neddick, they don’t believe [there's one] at Long Sands or Short Sands,” Lumia said.
Nick Doudoumopoulos said, “We have to be very careful not to make this a Cape Neddick issue.”
The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved the funding earlier this year. Voters will decide at the May 17 budget referendum.
Should the article pass, Dr. Stephen Jones of the University of New Hampshire would do testing for several months on Cape Neddick Beach, Long Sands Beach and Short Sands Beach, according to Linda Scotland, founding member of the Cape Neddick River Association. Harbor Beach is not fed by fresh water, so is not part of the study, she said.
“He’ll do it this summer on all three beaches at different tides every day,” Scotland said. “By the end of the summer, he’ll know what spots are bad to swim in.”
The goal is to make sure people know when the water is safe to swim in, according to Scotland.
Through previous testing, the association already knows bacteria counts are higher after times of heavy rain.
“He’ll know the exact amount of rain to advise to stay out of the water,” Scotland said.
A Cape Neddick River Watershed Management Plan has shown bacterial pollution sources coming from pet waste, wild animal and bird waste, and leaky septic systems.
Recent efforts by the town include enforcing septic pumping regulations; a proposed ordinance amendment requiring septic system inspections at the time of property transfer; a Lawns to Lobster program to promote shoreland buffers, rain gardens and other efforts; and the implementation of a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System, also known as MS4.