A Watershed Event for the City of Portland, Maine

A cleaner Portland harbor for work and play

In a world where we often hear how dysfunctional government can be, a case of things working well is happy news indeed.

Such was the situation when the City Council of Portland, Maine unanimously approved a stormwater utility fee that will keep raw sewage from flowing into Portland Harbor—something that had been occurring for decades.

The problem was clear. In 1991, state and federal regulators determined that the city was not in compliance with the federal Clean Water Act. When it rained, the city’s sewage treatment facilities were overloaded. The system of pipes carrying combined sewage and stormwater runoff carried more than the facilities could manage, so raw sewage and harmful chemicals from roadways was discharged directly into the bay.

Something had to be done 

The city convened a task force charged with developing a fair and equitable fee structure to pay for needed upgrades. One key component of the plan is that property owners can reduce their utility bill by creating rain gardens, installing rain barrels or taking other steps to reduce stormwater runoff. 

The goal of the program is to complete infrastructure upgrades that will eliminate or significantly reduce combined sewer overflows in the coming years. 

A clean victory

While nobody likes the prospect of paying higher taxes, it is telling that there wasn’t a single voice raised in opposition to the proposal when it was discussed by Portland’s City Council.

The importance of protecting Portland Harbor as a resource to everyone who lives, works and plays here was clearly the message that carried the day. And that’s a win-win for everyone.