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FAQs about Water Quality

Updated: Aug 19, 2020

What is a Watershed Program?

The Watershed Program was started in 1999 with the goal of developing a watershed protection plan for the Belgrade Lakes. The initial focus was on conducting Non-point Source (NPS) Pollution (erosion) surveys of the East Pond, North Pond, and Great Pond watersheds. We have since completed surveys of all the lake watersheds.

With completed surveys in hand, 7 Lakes Alliance began applying for grant funds provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. The funding is administered by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection in partnership with EPA. These so-called “319 Funds” are appropriated by Congress to address the damage to water quality caused by NPS Pollution. Both 7 Lakes and Kennebec County Soil and Water Conservation District (KCSWCD) have received 319 grant money for the Belgrade Lakes watershed for camp road problems, buffer plantings, driveway repair and design, and other erosion control improvements. These funds are used in “cost-share” agreements with property owners — usually splitting costs 50-50. Currently, the Watershed Program is administrating grants for work in the East Pond and North Pond watersheds. 7 Lakes is also working with KCSWCD on a planning grant for the Great Pond watershed.

The Watershed Program is more than just a source of funds for repairing erosion problems. The 7 Lakes office in Belgrade Lakes has a wealth of information on watershed issues — literally dozens of pamphlets and booklets published by Maine DEP and others. There are folks in the office, including the Watershed Program director and the Youth Conservation Corps, who can provide technical advice about buffers, camp roads, and other erosion control methods. Call them at 495-6039.

What is a NPS Pollution?

Non-point Source (NPS) Pollution is the greatest threat to water quality in Maine and in the United Staters, yet it is one of the hardest concepts to get people excited about — unless your lake is regularly turning green. The simplest definition of NPS Pollution is erosion and dirty runoff. In urban areas, people worry about the chemicals and other pollutants and bacteria that wash off streets and parking lots — that is also NPS Pollution. Here in the Belgrade Lakes, we worry about phosphorus carried by runoff into our lakes.

What causes NPS Pollution?

The simple answer is human activity. By building houses, roads, driveways, and all the other things that go with our living arrangements, people disrupt the normal water cycle. Rainwater and runoff no longer soak into the ground. Surface flow picks up nutrients and pollutants and carries them to our streams and lakes. If the surface flow gets concentrated, it causes erosion. But you can also have NPS Pollution without erosion. Roads and parking lots collect dust and grit from cars, trucks and other vehicles as well as oil, grease and anti-freeze — all that is part of NPS. Pet waste can be a significant addition to NPS from parks and city streets. Your lawn acts more like an impervious surface, allowing water to run over it rather than sinking into the ground. If you use pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers, these are picked up and carried into streams and lakes.

What are TMDLs?

This is one of the buzzwords to come out of the US Environmental Protection Agency to be applied to Non-point Source (NPS) Pollution. The acronym stands for Total Maximum Daily Load. The concept comes from the end-of-pipe control of pollutants from factories and wastewater treatment plants, and indicates the amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can safely absorb without impairment. With NPS Pollution we are talking about how much phosphorus can be “safely” transported into the lake without causing an algal bloom.

US EPA has ordered states to develop TMDL profiles for all their “impaired waters” (lakes that do not meet state and federal water quality standards). East Pond, Long Pond, and Great Pond fall within this category. Maine DEP has completed TMDL studies for East Pond and Long Pond. These reports confirm that human activity impacts water quality. Based on these reports, 7 Lakes is able to apply for grant funding to address water quality problems.

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