The City of Biddeford and its community partners have been awarded a grant of $127,200 to execute Phase II of water quality improvements outlined in the Thatcher Brook Watershed Based Management Plan.
The Thatcher Brook Watershed extends from the Saco River to the Arundel and Kennebunkport town lines. Contained within the watershed are a mix of land uses including the Maine Turnpike, densely developed commercial sections along Route 1 and Route 111, a large portion of the City’s industrial and business parks, older residential neighborhoods, and new subdivisions. According to the State of Maine, the Brook currently does not meet standards for aquatic life use. The Brook’s stressors include a lack of vegetation along its banks, decreased oxygen levels and increased amounts of phosphorus and chloride.
The grant is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act and administered by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The York County Soil and Water Conservation District (YCSWCD), Town of Arundel, Biddeford Conservation Commission (BCC), University of New England (UNE), Saco Watershed Collaborative and Wells Reserve are active partners in the grant and will help the City of Biddeford match the grant funding in the amount of $84,800, said a spokeswoman with York County Soil and Water Conservation District.
Improvement of water within the Brook has been a primary concern for the City of Biddeford for several years. In 2017, the City was awarded a Phase I grant to clean and restore the Thatcher Brook Watershed.
The $319,790 Watershed Implementation Grant, also funded by the U.S. EPA and administered by the Maine DEP, helped the City of Biddeford complete a first phase of goals set forth in their Thatcher Brook Watershed Based Management Plan with the assistance of YCSWCD, Town of Arundel, BCC, and UNE.
“Thatcher Brook is an important resource that flows through the City,” said Tom Milligan, City of Biddeford engineer. “Improving its water quality provides benefits to citizens for recreational needs, as well as to the fishery and wildlife populations that utilize the brook as their habitat. Improved water quality will sustain the long-term viability of the brook for future generations to enjoy.”
Several projects were completed within the Phase I grant, including habitat restoration projects near Kohl’s and Southern Maine Health Care and a soil filter installation on Morin Street in the Biddeford Industrial Park. The BCC also developed an educational program with high school students where they taught sampling protocols within Thatcher Brook and worked with UNE students to build knowledge and information about the watershed within the Biddeford community. All work performed within Phase I is summarized in the Final Project Report available on the City of Biddeford’s website.
Phase II work will be focused on the installation of three soil filters along Morin Street in the Biddeford Industrial Park in 2020. Once the work is completed this fall, a field trip with the Saco Watershed Collaborative is planned in the Industrial Park to highlight the results.
“In the Biddeford Industrial Park where Phase II projects will be installed, the densely developed commercial area creates an environment where stormwater runoff flows over impervious surfaces, picking up pollutants and nutrients and carrying them to Thatcher Brook untreated, affecting the health of the waterbody,” said Addie Halligan, environmental specialist at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. “The projects that will be completed in Phase II will direct runoff into a soil filter system that will allow for the capture and filtration of runoff, removing pollutants before it continues downstream. Piece by piece these installation projects aim to mimic natural systems, cleaning runoff before it reaches Thatcher Brook and eventually the Saco River.”
To increase awareness of the Brook and the ongoing water quality improvement efforts, the project team also intends to distribute educational brochures that address ordinance changes taking place in Biddeford as a result of this work, collaborate with UNE environmental students to create a video project promoting the work, and make a presentation at an upcoming Planning Board meeting.