Bug Light Parts storm drain
A storm drain at Bug Light Park in South Portland. Excess stormwater in urban areas can carry harmful pollutants into rivers, streams, and the bay. (Courtesy Friends of Casco Bay)
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Environmental advocates are welcoming changes to Maine’s stormwater permit policy, which will soon require what they say are clear and measurable attempts to reduce polluted runoff. 

Stormwater is a major contributor to pollution in Casco Bay, the direct result of development in urban areas because the water can’t drain into the ground below parking lots or roads. That means much of the stormwater runoff finds its way into sewers and back into streams, rivers, and the bay, according to Friends of Casco Bay

New criteria in the municipal separate storm sewer systems permit will promote the use of better cleanup methods, such as new development techniques or infrastructure that’s generally better for the environment of the Casco Bay watershed, including Portland and South Portland.

The permit is renewed every five years. But this year marks the first time criteria for the permit must be “clear, specific, and measurable.” Friends of Casco Bay appealed to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to add the changes in June 2021.

Set to go into effect in July, these additional measurable criteria should have great results for the watershed, according to Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca.

Under the changes, municipalities will be required to test stormwater to eliminate sources of contamination and make efforts to restore water quality and reduce stormwater pollution at its sources.

The revision also requires new construction and redevelopments to adapt practices to have less impact on the flow of stormwater runoff.

“What better year to have this permit take effect than during the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act,” Frignoca said.

Stormwater can carry pollutants that can cause algae blooms or expose the ecosystem to toxins, Frignoca said.

Doug Roncarati, stormwater program coordinator for the city of Portland said “we protect the environment and the long-term economic wellbeing of our communities by being thoughtful in how we manage our water resources.”

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