AUBURN, Maine — Auburn’s outlet beach opened as scheduled Tuesday but swimming will be banned there for the foreseeable future.
City Manager Clinton Deschene said the water in the outlet has failed quality tests eight of the last 13 times it was tested. According to a City Council decision in May, swimming won’t be allowed at the beach until it passes those tests consistently.
“But the park will be open,” Deschene said. “It’s open for public access and recreation, but there will be no swimming.”
Called Lake Grove Park, it will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, through Sept. 3.
The park has picnic tables, gazebos, playground equipment and grills. A summer renovation project calls for building two beach volleyball courts.
The park and beach were open for swimming last summer, but swimming was shut down twice after Coliform bacteria was found in the water. The bacteria can cause minor skin and eye infections, gastrointestinal disorders and respiratory illness.
A report written over the winter found the Enterococci bacteria exceeded EPA standards for freshwater recreation areas in 38 out of 120 samples and E.coli bacteria levels that surpassed standards in 29 out of 120 samples. Both are common bacteria in human and animal digestive systems.
It blamed part of the problem on a lack of fresh water. Lake Auburn feeds the pond through a single 25-foot-wide outlet spillway located under Route 4. Fresh water follows an 8-foot-deep stream through the pond and runs out through a spillway into Bobbin Mill Brook under Fair Street.
The study recommended three options, ranging from dredging the pond and rebuilding the beach area to decommissioning the area as a beach and a park.
Councilors opted to test the water regular and suspend swimming if high levels of bacteria were found.
Testing began at the end of May and was repeated every two or three days. According to the results, the water showed high levels of Enterococci bacteria three times during that period and E.Coli eight times.
The city posts water testing results to its website, at www.auburnmaine.gov/Pages/Government/Auburn-Outlet-Maine.