City officials had hoped to begin dredging The Muck this spring to clear the waters for a proposed youth fishing area, but tests and environmental considerations have set the timeline back to the fall.

The joint effort between the city and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife would require draining the pond, located at the fork of Lincolnville Avenue and Miller Street, and removing underwater vegetation in accessible areas near the shore. Additionally, the plan calls for ridding the pond of invasive species, including goldfish and excavating soil from the bottom of the pond to add four feet of depth around part of the perimeter.

The pond would be refilled and stocked annually with trout and designated for youth-only fishing.

Belfast Parks and Recreation Director Norman Poirier said the city recently got the results of an environmental assessment that included soil tests from the bottom of the pond. The report, prepared for Ransom Environmental, a consulting firm hired by the city, found elevated levels of some toxins, including arsenic.

Poirier said his understanding was the findings were not surprising given location of the pond between two major in-town roads. He added Maine Department of Environmental Protection will tell the city how the sediment should be transported and what it could be used for.

The Muck is an artificial, spring-fed body of water, dug out as a firefighting reservoir from a wetlands area once referred to as "Muck-hole." It briefly served as the city's water supply after a dam break in 1943. In 1964, it was dredged of 60,000 cubic yards of mud.

Today the pond attracts birdwatchers and ice skaters and is home to frogs, turtles and other wetlands wildlife. The murky waters are rumored to contain everything from sunk vehicles to a Loch Ness-style mystery creature.

Poirier said the results of environmental tests will be sent to DEP. He added that he didn't believe the materials found in the soil at the bottom of the pond would affect fishing after the dredging.

Poirier said the city will also be coordinating with Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to avoid disturbing desirable parts of the habitat.

Between the permitting and planning, he anticipated work would begin in late fall.