We Can Do More to Control Odors from the East End Wastewater Treatment Plant Says Candidate for Trustee Spot


The East End Wastewater Treatment Facility (Photo Courtesy of Fred McCann)

Frederick McCann, a Resident of the West End of Portland, is Running for a One-Year Term for Portland Water District Trustee on November 8, 2022, to Repreent the city of Portland.  He Was Biking on the Eastern Promande When This Photo was Taken.

By Frederick McCann, Candidate for Portland Water District Trustee, https://fred4water.com

The East End is home to a number of Portland’s greatest landmarks – the Portland Observatory, Fort Sumner Park with its incredible views and of course the Eastern Promenade.

Before the facility was completed in 1979, the East End Beach was usually closed fo public use as all of Portland’s wastewater flowed directly into the Back Cove and Casco Bay.

Today the facility treats around twenty million gallons of water each day, returning clear water to the eccosystem and keeping excess nitrogen and other pollutants out of Casco Bay.

In addition to cleaning our wastewater, the plant works with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor the levels of various viruses in the area.  As of 2022, the facility tracks levels of COVID-19, Monkeypox, Influenza A, and Respiratory Syncytial virus.  This information is vital to controlling the spread of these diseases.

Every resident of Portland shares equally in the benefits of the treatment facility, but the residents of the East End are disproportionally affected by the impact of the plant on their neighborhood.  Over the years, the facility has been the source of what can be at times a powerful odor.  An abundance of odor complaints in the summer of 2012 led to an investigation of the facility.  In 2016, the East End was again impacted by odor problems during the upgrade of the plant’s aeration system.

In addition to periodic odor problems, the facility suffered a human error in 2018 that resulted in a spill that leaked 1.5 mlilion gallons of wastewater into Casco Bay and caused the collapse of a portion of the Eastern Promeade Trail.

One might presume that the management of the plant is deficient or that the facility itself is in disrepair, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Over the years the Portland Water District has undertaken several upgrades to the system to manage odor problems including the addition of an activated carbon odor control system, the aforementiond upgrade of the plant’s aeration system, and the installation of a two-stage wet scrubber to remove odors from the air.

While these advancements are substantial, we can always do more to improve the East End Wastewater Treatment Facility.

Increased automation and better procedures can prevent future errors such as the one that lead to a wastewater spill in 2018.  The Portland Water District must invest in newer technologies to manage odors and must continue to replace aging quipment.  We may never be able to make the facility compleely odor free, but we can leseen the strength and frequency of odors every year.

Lilke most critical infrastructure projects, we can either take the path of neglect and eventual collapse, or we can invest in maintenance and continual improvement.  The costs of keeping the plant up-to-date are dwarfed by the costs we would face due to inaction.

Everyone in Portland relies on the East End Wastewater Treatment Facility to keep our water clean, but it’s the residents of the East End who are affected the most by its operation.  We owe it to them to do everything we can to lessen the impact.

Frederick McCann is a resident of the West End and is a frequent user of the Eastern Promenade Trail.  He is running for a one-year term for Portland Water District Trustee on November 8, 2022 to represent the city of Portland.