Point-Source Pollution Help

This guide is intended to help communities who are working to resolve water quality issues particular to point source pollution. This was developed by multiple state agency members and the MSLN team. Please contact gabrielle.hillyer@maine.edu with any questions.

This graphic highlights the major steps any community trying to help solve water quality issues should be taking. More details are posted below.

How are Point Source Pollution Sources Fixed?

This guide outlines how point sources are identified, how information is moved between the Department of Marine Resources (DMR), the town, the licensed plumbing inspector (LPI) and the Subsurface Wastewater Unit at the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and finally, how point sources can be remediated. This is by no means exhaustive, and there are many different ways to tackle this problem. This guide instead hopes to illuminate the decision making process around point sources. For more information on what point source pollution is, please see our Pollution Guide.

Point Source Identified

Point source pollution is identified in one of two ways, either by a private citizen, or by the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) during a shoreline survey. If identified by a citizen, the issue is reported to town management, and then reported to the DMR. From there, in both instances, problem forms are generated by the DMR. If the point source is identified as animal, please refer to this Wildlife Pollution resource guide for next steps.

The Problem Form

A problem form is a detailed document outlining the cause of pollution (to the extent possible), the location of the cause, a general estimate of how long it has been there, and anything else pertinent to the cause. For example, if a straight pipe is found, a problem form would include where the straight pipe is, how large of a problem it is causing, and possible ways to fix it. The DMR fills out and sends the form to the town, who is then responsible for remediation.

Town and Licensed Plumbing Inspector

The town begins by contacting a state licensed plumbing inspector (LPI). This inspector works throughout the state, and is paid to investigate and get more details about the issue. With our example of the straight pipe, the LPI would visit the site, confirm what the problem form had said, and add any more details that can be discovered, such as where that straight pipe comes from.


The town is responsible for remediation. This could include a lengthy process of fundraising, hiring construction crews, and is all highly dependent on the shape and extent of the pollution problem. Generally towns should try to consult with the LPI or the DMR before engaging in any specific remediation in order to make sure that it will in fact fix the problem. Another group the town can consult with is the Subsurface Water Unit at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Subsurface Water Unit (DHHS)

The Subsurface Wastewater Unit at DHHS is a group of people who work with overboard discharge systems and other wastewater problems across the coast. They have a deep knowledge and understanding of potential remediation techniques, which will be effective, and to what extent the problem can be fixed. To learn more please visit their website, here. Towns should reach out to DHHS for their support and expertise throughout the process of remediation and if they have any difficulties with the LPI scheduling.

Department of Marine Resources – Testing and Revisiting

After remediation is performed to the fullest extent by the town, the town has to schedule another inspection with LPI to complete the problem form. The Subsurface Water Unit from DHHS can also complete the problem form. After this form is completed it needs to be sent to DMR water quality managers. When applicable, the DMR will revisit the site, perform a series of tests, and repeal closures if possible. This process can take a great deal of time, so it is important to keep the DMR, DHHS, and other organizations as up to date as possible as remediation continues.