Tourism and the shellfish industry are both integral components of the Maine economy and way of life. Yet elevated fecal bacteria levels in coastal waters may pose a human health risk, leading to closures of valued beaches and shellfish growing areas.
Each year, bacterial contamination forces the closure of hundreds of acres of clam flats in southern Maine. These are the same bacteria that can pose a health risk at popular swimming beaches. Fecal coliform and E. coli bacteria are used as indicators that other, more harmful, pathogens may be present in coastal waters. But since wildlife, domestic animals, and humans can all be sources of fecal coliform, it is difficult for managers to identify the exact source of the bacteria.
Protecting water from pollution as southern Maine develops depends upon collaboration across town boundaries. The Protecting Our Children’s Water, 2005 – 2025 project is a proactive, regional approach to water protection and management. The approach has been implemented in two southern Maine watersheds to date: the Merriland, Branch, Little River (MBLR) watershed (in Sanford, Kennebunk, and Wells) and the York River watershed (in South Berwick, Eliot, York, and Kittery).