ROCKLAND, Maine — The high level of E. coli bacteria at Snow Marine Park could lead to the closure of the popular park.

Interim City Manager Tom Luttrell said Monday evening at the City Council meeting that if the high levels continue, the city would have no choice but to close it to protect the health of the public.

Terry Pinto, director of the wastewater treatment plant, said that he was not trying to scare people, but he has never seen E. coli levels as high as what is being detected from repeated tests of surface water in the park. He said that dog wastes appear to be the source of the bacteria.

Tests of the surface water follow separate tests done last month from the harbor near a drainage pipe that showed E. coli levels of 2,700, nearly seven times the 400 level considered the safe limit.

Later tests of E. coli in the standing water in the park, however, reached 16,000.

He said there are many other bacterias that come from dogs wastes that pose a hazard to humans and dogs, particularly if someone is walking barefoot and has a cut.

The council asked staff to come back to them with recommendations. Pinto said the city could close it temporarily and then spread lime to counteract the dog wastes before reopening it while prohibiting dogs.

The interim manager said better signs about picking up dog wastes, better enforcement of the pooper scooper law, and better education also are needed.

City officials have acknowledged that Snow Marine Park has become a de facto dog park.