BOOTHBAY HARBOR, Maine — A small pond in Boothbay Harbor has a big problem. The water at the bottom of West Harbor Pond...stinks.
The smell, say people living on the pond, is caused by hydrogen sulfite built up in a layer on the bottom, where heavier salt water that leaks into the pond keeps oxygen out. That anaerobic environment, they say, is what produces the hydrogen sulfite.
The pond was created more than 120 years ago and has always had a siphon to help drain saltwater out -- but it stopped working about ten years ago. Pond resident Gary Arnold says water tests have shown the layer of clean water becoming thinner, while the layer of poor quality, contaminated water has become deeper.
Arnold says most lakes and ponds naturally "turn over" each year, allowing trapped gases and other nasty matter on the bottom to dissipate into the full body of water and into the air. But he says because of the heavy salt water layer at the bottom, that process doesn’t happen on West Harbor Pond.
Last winter, the Pond Watershed Association installed a new siphon, hoping to resume draining the salt water.But when they turned it on this spring, the water poured out with a terrible smell from the hydrogen sulfite. A series of complaints from those living near the outlet dam, including the nearby Yacht Club, prompted a decision to shut down the siphon for the summer -- but owners of the Oak Grove Condominiums want the DEP to take charge of the problem before the siphon is used again, according to attorney William Taylor.
"And before they do that, we would like them to know the DEP is watching, and the DEP will be asking them to monitor that water before it is discharged, just like any other discharge they regulate in the state. They’re all required to test and monitor."
The spokesman for the West Harbor Pond Watershed Association says they will work with the DEP to find a solution.
Merritt Blakesee told NEWS CENTER Maine, "We are good neighbors and good citizens. We won’t turn it on if that will be problem for the community."
Pond resident Gary Arnold says he thinks the siphon is too big but says that can be fixed and the intake moved to deeper water. He says a smaller shoo-in should remove less water each time, and therefore reduce or eliminate the odor problem.
"If there is some common sense applied to the structure that’s there," Arnold says, "there is no reason why you couldn’t come up with a more slow process of draining the pond of its degraded water."
Maine DEP officials were not available Thursday to discuss the situation, but both the Pond Association and the Condo Association say they expect an initial meeting with the DEP to happen soon.