AUBURN — The city’s outlet beach may not open for swimming at all this year because of poor water quality test results.

City Manager Clinton Deschene said the water in the swimming pond failed tests for coliform bacteria four of the seven times the water was tested this month.

Since Memorial Day, the water has exceeded Environmental Protection Agency levels of either E. coli bacteria or enterococci bacteria 12 times out of 19 tests.

According to city councilors, swimming will not be allowed at the beach until it has been cleared of bacteria for at least 30 days. Swimming at the beach normally ends on Labor Day, which is Sept. 2 this year.

“That means that if it does not test clean in early August, there is no possibility of reaching that 30-day requirement,” Deschene said.

Lake Grove Park, the park around the outlet, opened as scheduled July 2. The park has picnic tables, gazebos, playground equipment and grills. A summer renovation project calls for building two beach volleyball courts as well. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday through Sept. 2.


“We’ll go forward,” Deschene said. “I think the plan from the city side is to look at a variety of ways to develop the Lake Grove Park area.”

The park and beach were open for swimming last summer, but swimming was shut down twice after coliform bacteria was found in the water. The bacteria can cause minor skin and eye infections, gastrointestinal disorders and respiratory illness.

A report written over the winter found the enterococci bacteria exceeded EPA standards for freshwater recreation areas in 38 out of 120 samples and E. coli bacteria levels that surpassed standards in 29 out of 120 samples. Both are common bacteria in human and animal digestive systems.

The city posts water testing results to its website,

Deschene said he hopes to compile data about the water quality that could help councilors decide what happens at the pond next year.

“The question is going to be, ‘is the data conclusive enough?'” Deschene said. “If, by August, it turns out we’ve failed 5 percent or 50 percent of the time, what happens next?”


A report written in the February by New Hampshire’s Comprehensive Environmental Inc. for the Lake Auburn Watershed Protection Commission and the city blamed part of the problem on a lack of fresh water. Lake Auburn feeds the pond through a single 25-foot-wide outlet spillway under Route 4. Fresh water follows an eight-foot-deep stream through the pond and runs out through a spillway into Bobbin Mill Brook under Fair Street.

John Storer, superintendent of the Auburn Water District, said the shape of the area and the downward slope between the outlet and Lake Auburn keep outlet water from flowing back into the lake. There’s little chance that contaminated water from the outlet will seep back into the lake.

Storer said the district tests Lake Auburn’s water daily.

“We have not had any exceedances of bacteria counts,” he said. “Our intake is pretty well removed from that outlet area.”

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