Portland closes East End Beach after water treatment plant problem

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Update: East End Beach was reopened after test results from the first water sample came back “well below” the state safety threshold, the city announced shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday, July 21. Additional samples were taken and the city said it will continue to monitor conditions.

East End Beach in Portland remained closed early Tuesday pending results of water contamination tests after a malfunction Sunday at the city’s nearby East End Wastewater Treatment Plant.

City spokesperson Jessica Grondin said police and parks staff closed the beach Sunday afternoon, when temperatures soared into the 90s, after the Portland Water District notified the city of a problem at the 500 Marginal Way treatment plant.

“The city will keep the beach closed until it is able to receive test results back that show the water conditions are safe,” Grondin said in a prepared statement.

A barricade at the entrance to Portland’s East End Beach Tuesday morning, July 21, while the city waited for the results of tests for possible water contamination. (Portland Phoenix/Colin Ellis)

Michelle Clements, public relations manager for the Portland Water District, said the problem stemmed from a loss of power at the treatment plant and a subsequent problem with a backup generator.

“We were only able to partially treat the wastewater for a few hours,” Clements said.

PWD reached out to the city, which decided to close the beach. Clements said they took a sample of the water for testing, and results were expected back Tuesday afternoon.

“We do not know how much partially treated wastewater was released into Casco Bay because our computer system was also down,” she said.

This is the second time in recent years a problem at the facility has led to a beach closure. In late July 2018, the city temporarily closed the beach following a spill of more than 1 million gallons of partially treated sewage into Casco Bay.

In that episode, part of the Eastern Prom Trail was washed away when wastewater overflowed from a treatment tank.

The Portland Water District serves around 60,000 people a day and handles 20 million gallons of wastewater a day. The Marginal Way treatment plant is the largest in the state.