FAQ’s about Water Quality

What is a Watershed Program?

The BRCA 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 and runoff) surveys of the East Pond, North Pond, and Great Pond watersheds. We have since completed surveys of all the lake watersheds. Reports of these surveys are available from the BRCA office (465-6039) for a nominal fee.

With some completed surveys in hand, the BRCA began applying for grant funds available through the Maine Department of Environment under the Federal Clean Water Act, Section 319. These so-called “319 Funds” are appropriated by Congress to address the threat to water quality posed by NPS Pollution. Both BRCA and the Kennebec County Soil and Water Conservation District (KCSWCD) have received grant money to address camp road problems, buffer strip plantings, driveway repair and design, etc. These funds are used in a “cost-share” agreement between the property owners and the BRCA — usually splitting the costs 50-50. Currently, the BRCA Watershed Program is administrating grants for work in the East Pond, Great Pond and Long Pond Watersheds. The KCSWCD has a grant working in the Salmon-McGrath watershed.

The BRCA Watershed Program is more than just a source of funds for repairing problems. The BRCA 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, the Watershed Program Coordinator and the Conservation Corps Director who can answer your questions about buffers, camp roads, etc. Call them at 495-6039.

BRCA Watershed Program

With support from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s NPS Grants Program, BRCA is currently completing a four-year series of watershed surveys of all seven Belgrade Lakes to identify threats to our lakes. Under the direction of watershed coordinator Peter Kallin and with support from additional grants, we have begun projects to correct problems that affect water quality, like phosphorus run-off and erosion.

Copies of individual lake surveys for East Pond, North Pond, McGraw Pond and Salmon Lake, Great Pond and Long Pond can be obtained at the BRCA office. Surveys cost $5, which covers the cost of printing; plus $2.50 if shipped to you.

What is a NPS Pollution?

Non-point Source (NPS) Pollution is the greatest threat to water quality in this country and state; 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 run-off. In urban areas they worry about all the chemicals and other pollutants and bacteria that wash off streets and parking lots — that is NPS Pollution. Here in the Belgrades, we worry about the Phosphorus carried by run-off 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 run-off cannot soak into the ground. This 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 do not need to have erosion to have NPS Pollution. Roads and parking lots collected 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. And 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 latest buzzwords to come out of the 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 changing its classification. With NPS Pollution we are really talking about Total Maximum Yearly Load or how much phosphorus (in lake systems) can be “safely” transported into the lake without causing an algae bloom.

The Federal EPA has ordered the states to develop TMDL profiles for all their “impaired waters” (that is lakes that do not meet state and federal standards). Due to algae blooms, East Pond falls within this category. And the Maine DEP has completed a TMDL study for that watershed. This report confirms what we knew before; human activity is affecting water quality in that lake. Having this study in hand has allowed the BRCA to apply for increased grant funding to address watershed problems, such as camp roads around East Pond.

Is East Pond the only lake that we need to worry about? It’s the only one with a TMDL study.

Of course not, we must work to control soil disturbance, erosion and run-off wherever they occur in all of our watersheds. Increasing development of back lands (well away from the lakeshore) is a threat to the health of our lakes — water runs down hill and carries nutrients with it.