LINCOLNVILLE — The Lincolnville Lakes and Ponds Committee will send a letter before spring to residents who own floats in town following a discussion at the Jan. 24 meeting of the Select Board.

The board will also seek a consensus from the Harbor Committee on the condition of, and need for, the secondary hoist at the harbor.

Both decisions evolved from a presentation to the board by Lincolnville Lakes & Ponds Committee Chair Gary Gulezian. He said the Lakes & Ponds Committee had made the issue of materials used in float construction a top priority.

The culprit is polystyrene (Styrofoam). Polystyrene is a largely inert substance, made from petroleum products, and it consists of small polystyrene beads fused together. In fact, it is so inert that it is difficult to recycle and takes decades or longer to break down in the environment.

Because of these attributes, polystyrene food containers are now banned in numerous cities and states around the country. In Maine, the use of polystyrene is prohibited at any state function and it is banned as packaging in some municipalities, including Portland and Freeport.

It is still widely used for flotation in docks because it is lightweight and resistant to environmental and chemical degradation. However, it does break apart when subject to abrasion, and animals, such as muskrats, love to tear it apart. As a result, pieces of blue, virtually indestructible polystyrene line the shores of area lakes and rivers, eventually flowing into the ocean. When swallowed by fish and waterfowl, they can clog the intestines, preventing digestion of food and leading to starvation. This contamination can be passed along to humans who consume fish or fowl. High levels of polystyrene can damage the liver and central nervous system.

To circumvent the problem with the fragility of polystyrene, most dock floats today contain polystyrene that is encapsulated in a hard polyethylene shell. Unencapsulated polystyrene is usually blue or blue- green in color; the polyethylene shells are usually black. Unencapsulated polystyrene floats are being increasingly banned on lakes and rivers. The materials takes decades to break down in the environment.

Lincolnville opted to educate float owners with a letter and materials that outlined the dangers of unencapsulated polystyrene. Since that time, the Lakes & Ponds Committee has monitored the number of floats with this construction.

“The letters went to around 300 people along the shorefront,” said Gulezian. “We’ve gone from 93 floats to 39. That’s a drop of 60%.

While the outreach and education appeared to have some impact, most agreed that more needed to be done.

“It raises the question,” said Select Board Vice Chair Keryn Laite, “are we at the hard cases? Do we need to do something more? Our hope is to get that number as close to zero as we can.”

Lincolnville residents who own floats with unencapsulated polystyrene may face another issue this spring when they attempt to return their floats from Bog Bridge across Megunticook Lake.

In 2017 Camden banned the use of unencapsulated polystyrene on floats. The town established a five-year moratorium on enforcement — which ended on Nov. 1, 2022. That means the use of floats with unencapsulated polystyrene is prohibited on all of Camden’s lakes, ponds and harbor.

Lincolnville residents who stored their floats at Bog Bridge will have to return them to residences across Megunticook Lake. Floats that contain unencapsulated polystyrene will not be allowed travel over Megunticook Lake.

“For Lincolnville float and dock owners in Lake Megunticook,” Gulezian said, “their docks are taken to the Bog Bridge on Route 105. For them to get there, they have to be floated across Camden. I guess a judgment has been made that will not be acceptable under the Camden ordinance.”

Board members decided to send another letter and materials to dock and float owners, reminding them of the dangers of unencapsulated polystyrene, with the caveat that an ordinance may be considered if a problem persists. Gulezian told the board a draft of the letter for their approval would be forthcoming.

Town Administrator David Kinney gave the board an update on the condition of the secondary hoist at the harbor. The hoist, used occasionally when the primary hoist is either out of service, or in use, has fallen into disrepair. Kinney advised the board that repair or replacement of the hoist could come from the Harbor savings account.

“A majority of the fishermen I’ve talked to want that,” said Board Member Steve Hand.

An upgrade to the secondary hoist would include sturdier construction to protect it from the impact of the wind and salt spray, including galvanized steel.

“I’d feel better if we got word from the Harbor Committee that this was an urgent need,” said Select Board member Mike Ray.

The issue was tabled to allow the Harbor Committee time to respond to that request.

Gulezian also reported on the presence of phragmites, or common reed, in the marsh area near Breezemere Park. Phragmites is a non-native species and, in recent years, has overtaken the marsh.

“When we first looked, some of the stalks were 15 feet high,” said Gulezian. “You couldn’t see anything past them. They were taking over.”

Gulezian reported the Lakes & Ponds Committee has undertaken a program of removing the phragmites with success. Over the past three years the interdiction effort has produced positive results.

“Now the stalks are only a few feet high,” Gulezian said. “We also saw a lot of native vegetation growing where the phragmites were located.”

In other business Kinney reminded the board and residents of the upcoming Lincolnville Community Heart & Soul rollout on Feb. 5 at Lincolnville Central School.

The next meeting of the Select Board will be Feb. 13.