AUBURN — An engineering company Tuesday presented three possible courses of action for the city to take at Outlet Beach.
They included aerating the pond and dredging it, turning it into a park for fishing and birdwatching and closing it and naturalizing the land.
Eileen Pannetier, president of Comprehensive Environmental of New Hampshire presented the company's findings to a group of mostly Lake Auburn Watershed Neighborhood Association members.
Pannetier said the three-acre site next to Route 4 has limited beach space in comparison to parking. Although there's room for as many as 60 vehicles, only about 35 swimmers at a time can use the beach, she said.
Her report noted the primary source of fresh water for Outlet Beach is stormwater, mostly from Route 4. That means it's susceptible to pollution.
With minimal outflow from the small pond into Bobbin Mill Brook, Pannetier said there is inadequate circulation of water, making the pond susceptible to algae blooms from Lake Auburn. She also pointed out the levels of enteroccus and E. coli bacteria that exceed Environmental Protection Agency standards, waterfowl excrement, beach erosion and adjacent impervious surfaces.
Pannetier presented a three proposals to the city.
One would cost between $400,000 and $600,000 to:
* Aerate the 6½-acre pond.
* Treat stormwater.
* Spend an additional $500,000 to $1.5 million for dredging.
The plan did not include renovations to the park, maintenance, monitoring or lifeguards needed.
Another plan would cost $65,000 to:
* Turn the site into a park for fishing and birdwatching.
* Regrade and revegetate the land.
* Reduce the size of the parking lot.
* Control erosion.
* Provide handicap access.
The third plan would cost $30,000 to:
* Decommission the park.
* Erect signs prohibiting swimming.
* Remove existing structures.
* Reduce parking.
* Regrade and naturalize the land.
* Block public access.
Pannetier emphasized any plan should focus on long-term water quality and the city, before enacting drastic measures to save the beach, should consider the thousands of dollars of investment per swimmer for a relatively small public beach.
Given the recent history of fecal matter in the water, Pannetier highly recommended daily testing if swimming continues.
Director of the Auburn Water and Sewer District, John Storer, said the department is testing Lake Auburn three days a week and is prepared to test more if the city supports such a move.
Tizz Crowley, speaking as part of the Lake Auburn Watershed Neighborhood Association, asked whether there had been any illnesses specifically related to the water quality.
Deschene pointed out that there is no way of knowing how many potential illnesses there have been over the years and cautioned against asking people to report possible beach related illness.
"We may have over-reporting if we ask for reports," he said.
City Councilor Leroy Walker expressed concerns that water flow to the beach is not adequate for clearing out pollutants and fecal contamination. As for limiting the number of swimmers to 30, Walker called the idea, "ridiculous."
He said he has seen up to 75 children at the beach without any problems, and said people have been swimming there for years without issues.
He said he believes Route 4 to be the culprit of recent woes at the beach. When Route 4 was expanded, he said, the ditches that now drain into the pond were expanded. "I didn't see anybody worried about water quality at the time," he said.
While Walker said he would like to see emphasis put on swimming at the beach, he would at least like to see the land used as a park until swimming can resume. He recommended installing wash stations to stave off duck itch, also called swimmer's itch. The rash is caused by parasites from fowl living in fresh water.
Councilor Belinda Gerry said she is concerned with chemicals getting into the water from Route 4 and believes the state is partly responsible for the potential cleanup cost. She proposed diverting stormwater where it can be treated and returned to the pond, as well as multiple outlets from Lake Auburn to increase flow through the beach.
City Manager Clinton Dedchene, who moderated the meeting, said he hopes to present concerns from Tuesday's meeting to the City Council, with a decision on the course of action within the month.