NH Water News

History of the Clean Water Act
Submitted by Dawn Genes    11-03-14

October 18, 2014 marks the 42nd Anniversary of the Clean Water Act, which serves as the primary statute governing the quality of our nation’s water.  This landmark piece of legislation has allowed many highly polluted bodies of water in the U.S. to once again be available for recreational activities like swimming and fishing.

Originally passed in 1948 as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the sweeping 1972 amendments provided the first effective enforcement mechanism to ensure water quality standards were met.   The law has been amended again since 1972, most notably in 1977 and 1981, but the 1972 amendments still make up the bulk of the framework commonly known today as the Clean Water Act.

Under the Clean Water Act, any facility that discharges waste into a body of water must first obtain a permit from the EPA or their designated representative (to date 46 state agencies are authorized to issue permits under the program).  Permits are issued once the operator of the facility shows that they are using the best available technology to reduce pollutants from their discharges.  In addition, water quality standards have been established under the Clean Water Act as targets for individual bodies of water.  These may also be invoked to require additional mitigation measures before issuing a permit if water quality targets have not been met.

Later amendments to the Clean Water Act have increased the number of facilities requiring permits, most notably large agricultural facilities that were exempt from earlier legislation, and have provided federal grants for municipal wastewater treatment.

When the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, less than one third of U.S. waterways met water quality standards.  Today more than two thirds meet standards.  In addition, many of the worst effects of unchecked industrial water pollution have been significantly eliminated.  Lake Erie, which by 1972 no longer supported any significant aquatic life, and the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio, which famously caught fire in 1969, are both once again available for human recreation.

We’ve come a long way since 1972, but we still have a ways to go to ensure not only that our nation’s water quality continues to improve, but also that we don’t slip backwards. How about that?

Submitted by Dawn Genes, Exec. Director, LRWA, 43 North River Road, Lee, NH 03861, 603-659-9363. For more information visit www.lrwa-nh.org

River Protection in Raymond: Opportunity and Challenge
By Carolyn Matthews 7-15-13

Protected upstream segments of two of New Hampshire’s most significant rivers flow through Raymond and neighboring towns, bringing both opportunity and challenge.

The Exeter River watershed drains the southern third of Raymond, including wetlands and ponds near the Chester/Candia line, Fordway Brook in the Old Bye neighborhood, the main stem in the Blueberry Hill and Brown Road regions, and wetlands bordering Fremont.  The Lamprey River watershed drains the northern two-thirds of Raymond, including Governors’ and Onway Lakes and Dudley Brook.  The main stem Lamprey winds its way through the heart of downtown Raymond, under route 107,  beside Pine Acres Campground and under Prescott Road to flow on toward Epping.

Lamprey River from Langford Bridge

Raymond gets its scenic beauty, much of its rural character, its clean drinking water and its character from the Exeter and Lamprey Rivers and their groundwater systems. The 2009 Raymond Master Plan includes goals and objectives to support preservation and protection of the rivers and their watersheds. Other parts of the Master Plan recognize the challenges of being a riverside town, among them the need to “Mitigate future flooding events through a more stringent regulatory approach towards development adjacent to rivers, lakes, and steep slopes.”

Raymond has long been represented on the Exeter River Local Advisory Committee (ERLAC).  Article 29, initiated by State Representative Mike Kappler, R-Raymond and passed by Raymond voters in 2009, established the Lamprey River Corridor Committee with representatives from 14 river towns who studied and proposed designation of the Lamprey into the State Rivers Protection Program. Raymond’s 2010 Board of Selectmen, Conservation Commission and Planning Board supported designation, and today Raymond has four seats on the Lamprey River Advisory Committee (LRAC).

The LRAC reviews and advises the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) on projects planned near the river corridor, works with neighboring river towns and the Lamprey River Watershed Association for advancement of river issues, and also produces a River Management Plan to guide its activities. The plan is currently under review by Lamprey River towns (see www.raymondnh.gov Planning Board page) or click on 2013 Lamprey River Management Plan to read the draft plan.

Lamprey River from Pecker Bridge

Raymond Selectmen and the Raymond Business and Economic Development Committee (RBEDC) have expressed concern with a water conservation imitative in the Plan (page 14) that allows the LRAC to advise NH DES on its Instream Flow Pilot Program:  “The RBEDC strenuously objects to the implementation of in-stream flow rules on the Lamprey River, as it will impact Raymond’s existing and future well sites and water supplies,” written in a letter endorsed by the Raymond Board of Selectmen on 6.17.13.

Instream Flow Rules have been under study by NH DES for the Souhegan and Lamprey Rivers (as pilot programs) for more than twenty years as a response to increasing pressure to share river water among all riverside towns and to ensure that rivers continue to flow in spite of public uses and stresses. As a result, in Durham, for example, the municipal water treatment plant withdraws water from other sources and stops withdrawing from the Lamprey River altogether during low-flow periods. (Note that if Instream Flow Rules are passed for the Lamprey River, they would apply to Raymond even if the Raymond portion of the river had not been designated into the Rivers Protection Program.)

Currently Raymond has four vacant seats and no representation on the Exeter River Local Advisory Committee and two vacant seats on the Lamprey River Local Advisory Committee .

To apply for a seat on either the Exeter or Lamprey Local Advisory Committees, citizens of river towns may request letters of recommendation from their Boards of Selectmen to be sent to the NH Commissioner of Environmental Services. See RSA 483:8-a-II for guidelines. 

Click on Instream Flow Protection Program to learn more about the Instream program or contact Wayne Ives at (603) 271-3548 or wayne.ives@des.nh.gov.

Photos by Cheryl Killam

Celebrating 25 Years of Rivers Protection in New Hampshire 
Thomas Burack, NHDES Commissioner - 7-9-13

In the early 1980’s, the Town of Jackson fought the development of a hydroelectric facility on the Wildcat River at Jackson Falls. This led to the river’s induction into the federal Wild & Scenic Rivers System and emphasized the need for a similar State program. In 1985, a group of concerned citizens and conservation organizations formed the New Hampshire Rivers Campaign to advocate for our rivers. The Campaign, which later became the New Hampshire Rivers Council, helped to establish the State’s Rivers Management and Protection Program. Thanks to the efforts of many individuals, legislators, organizations and businesses, the New Hampshire Rivers Management and Protection Program is now celebrating its 25th anniversary with approximately 1,000 river miles designated into the Program.

On signing this landmark piece of environmental legislation, then-Governor Judd Gregg described the State’s rivers as “emeralds in the crown jewels of New Hampshire,” emphasizing the importance of protecting rivers for the benefit of future generations. To assist NHDES in administering the Program, the Legislature established the statewide Rivers Management Advisory Committee (RMAC). The committee is comprised of 17 members representing business, agriculture, hydroelectric, water supply, conservation, recreation, fish and game, historical interests, and municipal and state government.

A unique aspect of the Rivers Program is that local residents or groups nominate their river for designation. As a result of this grassroots support, 18 rivers or river segments flowing through 126 towns, places and state parks are now part of the Program. Upon designation, a partnership is created among the State, local citizens and their towns through the formation of a local advisory committee (LAC). In true New Hampshire tradition, hundreds of citizens have volunteered their time and expertise to help their communities manage rivers and provide the State with local input regarding development proposals and other decisions that may impact rivers.

The list of LAC successes is as long and varied as New Hampshire’s rivers themselves. In one case, the protection measures included in the Program helped local citizens defeat a proposal to establish a new solid waste landfill in a river’s floodplain. Through its monitoring program, another LAC identified an illegal sewage discharge and worked cooperatively with the municipality to disconnect it, eliminating its flow into the river. Yet a third LAC has worked successfully with communities and organizations to increase public access to the river by refurbishing existing recreational facilities and distributing river trail and recreation maps. The cumulative accomplishments of the LACs are so impressive, they were presented with the President’s Volunteer Service Award and the Spirit of New Hampshire Volunteer Service Award in 2008. The Instream Flow Program, with its pilot projects to determine how to best meet the needs of water users on designated rivers without harming river ecosystems, has also benefitted from the input of dozens of volunteers. Collectively, RMAC and LAC volunteers have donated approximately 60,000 hours of their time, valued at over $1.3 million, to the State over the last 25 years.

Like the ceaseless blue flow of our “bejeweled” rivers, volunteers have tirelessly powered the success of the Rivers Program. From the determined NH Rivers Campaign volunteers who called for the legislative enactment of the Program to the hundreds of Granite Staters who have contributed their time and talents since its inception, the Rivers Program has provided the framework for cooperative state and local partnerships. All who have participated in the Rivers Program can be proud of their work – the State’s environment and economy are healthier because our rivers are clean, clear and accessible for present and future generations. 

Two Years Running: Two New Hampshire Beaches Rated Top in the Nation by NRDC Concord, NH – 6-27-13

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) rated Hampton Beach State Park and Wallis Sands Beach five star beaches and called New Hampshire coastal beaches second cleanest in the nation. The NRDC published its 23rd Annual “beachwater quality report” analyzing beach data reported to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by coastal and Great Lakes states. The NRDC report rates the 200 most popular beaches nationally on a five star scale with only 13 beaches receiving all five stars.

Only one percent of 1,006 samples collected at coastal NH beaches during 2012 exceeded the state standard of 104 counts of Enterococci/100 ml of water. New Hampshire ranks second among the 30 states that are part of the EPA’s beach monitoring program, behind Delaware. Less than five percent of water samples and Hampton Beach and Wallis Sands Beach exceed national standards since 2010. Of the 16 New Hampshire beaches sampled in 2012, 10 did not have any elevated bacteria results at all.

Across America, there were 20,000 beach closings and advisories in 2012. Of these closings and advisories 80 percent were issued because bacteria levels in the water violated public health standards. These findings proved serious water pollution still continues on many US beaches. It is increasingly important to protect New Hampshire beaches. 

New Hampshire residents can be proud of our coastal water quality and strive to maintain these levels. Everyone can take simple steps to prevent beach pollution in all locations. Picking up pet waste, maintaining septic systems, putting swim diapers with plastic covers on babies and keeping trash off the beach can help keep our waters clean. Collaboratively we can keep New Hampshire beaches five-star. 

The NHDES Beach Inspection Program monitors the water at New Hampshire public swimming beaches from late May until early September. Personnel collect water for analysis at coastal and freshwater beaches. The water samples are analyzed for fecal bacteria to protect public health.

For more information visit the programs website: http://m1e.net/c?158049860-BWYaTCQnG46fU%4024485025-bhGblNIOXWqWg Also, updates on current beach advisories and warnings can be found on the DES website, www.des.nh.gov under the Alerts button.

Residents can also sign up to receive notifications about beach advisories at the DES ENews subscription service, http://m1e.net/c?158049860-Luu5xFJRbJuZo%4024485026-tnEXYfGILA5.w or by following the NHDES Beaches Twitter feed at: http://m1e.net/c?158049860-7fkCl0jrMJOmY%4024485027-xno/JTnnVInHA

To review the NRDC report, visit: http://m1e.net/c?158049860-/rOGrSPj07Eu2%4024485028-tl4Nx..F2XPT6

Celebrate Drinking Water Week: May 5-11
Concord, NH - 5-5-13

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) is celebrating drinking water from May 5-11, 2013. Governor Hassan has proclaimed the week “Drinking Water Week” in New Hampshire. The purpose of Drinking Water Week is to highlight the value of water to each of us in our everyday lives. 

This year marks the 39th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act, which is a national effort to provide quality drinking water and protect the health of our citizens. New Hampshire citizens are served daily by approximately 2,400 public drinking water systems. Everyone relies on public water systems, either at home or away from home at work, school, restaurants, and public places.

During Drinking Water Week, DES is emphasizing the importance of protecting our sources of water and using water more efficiently, as well as the value, importance, and fragility of our state’s water resources. DES works with drinking water utilities to make sure that the water delivered to consumers meets all federal and state standards and is clean and abundant. These efforts are vital to New Hampshire’s economy and to the public health of our citizens.

The tasks facing public drinking water systems continue to be extremely challenging—especially in an era of scarce public funds. The drinking water infrastructure in many cities is aging and presents daunting financial demands. “In New Hampshire, the estimated funding need is $2.9 billion over the next 10 years for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure upgrades, repairs and replacement,” according to Sarah Pillsbury, Administrator of DES’s Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau.

A report issued in December 2012 recommended that the state “renew and reinvent partnerships between and among individuals, communities, state and federal governments, and the private sector to provide the necessary levels of investment” for drinking water and other water-related infrastructure.  The report, New Hampshire Lives on Water, was issued by the N.H. Water Sustainability Commission, which was established in April 2011 by Governor John Lynch and was charged with identifying strategies and management measures for ensuring that the quality and quantity of New Hampshire's water resources in 25 years are as good as or better than they are today.

To read the report: CLICK HERE 

“Today, New Hampshire renews its commitment to build on the successes of the past 39 years,” noted DES’s Pillsbury, “and we continue to work with all of our partners in the water community to fully realize the public health goals of the Safe Drinking Water Act through celebrating National Drinking Water Week.”

Don’t Be a Drip, Fix That Leak - March 2013

Drip. Drip. Drip. The average American household wastes more than 10,000 gallons each year from easy-to-fix water leaks—that’s the amount of water needed to wash 270 loads of laundry. If that doesn’t seem like a lot, consider that across the country, easy-to-fix household leaks can add up to more than 1 trillion gallons of water lost every year, not to mention all the wasted energy used to treat and pump this water.

That’s why the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES), as a partner of the EPA’s WaterSense® program, is encouraging homeowners to find and fix leaks during the annual Fix a Leak Week, March 18 through March 24, 2013. Fix a Leak Week reminds homeowners of the easy steps they can take to help save water in their community now and for future generations.

Fixing household leaks not only saves water but reduces water utility bills—by about 10 percent. Be for water and start saving today with three simple steps: Check. Twist. Replace.

1. Check
First, check your home for leaks. An easy way to start is with your water meter, normally located in the basement.  Record the numbers on the water meter and do the same again in an hour or two during a time when no one will be using water.  The difference indicates potential leakage.  Walk around your home with eyes and ears open to find dripping faucets and showerheads and don’t forget to check pipes and outdoor spigots. 

Some leaks are not easy to find, including a common water-wasting culprit, the silent toilet leak. Take part in the Silent Toilet Leak Challenge during Fix a Leak week by placing a blue toilet dye tablet, available in the DES lobby, or by adding a few drops of food coloring to the toilet tank and waiting 10 minutes before flushing. If any color appears in the bowl during that time, your toilet has a leak. Most likely you have a faulty toilet flapper which is a very easy and cheap fix.

Visit this website for instructions on how to fix leaks and fill out the Silent Toilet Leak Challenge Survey to let us know you took the challenge and be entered to win a new water efficient showerhead and other prizes.

2. Twist
Apply pipe tape to be sure plumbing fixture connections are sealed tight and give a firm twist with a wrench. If you can’t stop those drops yourself, contact your favorite plumbing professional. For additional savings, twist a WaterSense labeled aerator onto each bathroom faucet to save water without noticing a difference in flow. Faucet aerators cost a few dollars or less and can save a household more than 500 gallons each year—the amount of water it takes to shower 180 times! 

3. Replace
If you just can’t nip that drip, it may be time to replace the fixture. Also, water-using fixtures that were manufactured prior to 1994 are much less efficient and should be considered for an upgrade. Look for WaterSense labeled models in your local home improvement store.  WaterSense labeled fixtures use at least 20 percent less water and are independently certified to perform as well or better than standard plumbing fixtures. Replacing an old, inefficient showerhead with a WaterSense labeled model will shrink your household’s water footprint by 2,900 gallons annually while still letting you shower with power, thanks to EPA’s efficiency and performance criteria. With less hot water passing through, WaterSense labeled showerheads can also save enough energy to power a television for a year.

For more information and tips about how to find and fix leaks during Fix a Leak Week, and for tips on using water more efficiently visit this website .

Ideas for a Cleaner Environment
A publication of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, Concord, NH (603) 271-3710

Be for Water: Participate in Fix a Leak Week from March 18 through March 24, 2013 - 3-15-2013

Concord, NH - To ensure enough clean water for you, your family and for future generations, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services is asking consumers to take part in the EPA WaterSense Program’s Fix-a-Leak Week, from March 18 through March 24, 2013.

The average American household wastes more than 10,000 gallons each year from easy-to-fix water leaks—that’s the amount of water needed to wash 270 loads of laundry. If that doesn’t seem like a lot, consider that across the country, easy-to-fix household leaks can add up to more than 1 trillion gallons of water lost every year, not to mention all the wasted energy used to treat and pump this water.

Be for water and take part in Fix a Leak Week by checking, twisting, and replacing:

•  Check for leaks. Look for dripping faucets, showerheads, sprinklers, and other fixtures. Don’t forget to check irrigation systems and spigots too.

•  Take part in the Silent Toilet Leak Challenge.  Check toilets with silent leaks by placing a toilet dye tablet, available in the DES lobby during Fix a Leak Week or by putting a few drops of food coloring into the tank, waiting 10 minutes, and seeing if color appears in the bowl before you flush. Visit this website  and fill out the Silent Toilet Leak Challenge Survey to let us know the results of your test and be entered to win a WaterSense labeled water efficient showerhead and more.

•  Twist and tighten hose and pipe connections. To save water without a noticeable difference in flow in your bathroom, twist on a WaterSense labeled faucet aerator. 

•  Replace the fixture if necessary. Look for WaterSense labeled models, which are independently certified to use 20 percent less water and perform as well as or better than standard models.

To find out more about finding and repairing leaks and more about what you can do to save water more efficiently go to more info to save water.

Restoring the “Bread Basket” of the Coast – 
By Thomas Burack, DES Commissioner

Tidal salt marshes are an important but underappreciated aspect of New Hampshire’s 18 miles of seacoast and 130 miles of estuarine shoreline. Salt marshes from Portsmouth to Seabrook have been damaged or destroyed by roads, by undersized culverts that don’t provide for adequate tidal exchange, by filling with rocks and dirt to create buildable land, and by being used as disposal locations for spoils (materials) from harbor dredging. Today there are about 6,000 acres of salt marsh in New Hampshire – 20% less than when the coastal region was first settled. For the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services—marking its 25th anniversary this year—this loss has inspired a successful collaborative effort to restore the critical role salt marshes play in our ecosystem.

Our salt marshes provide wildlife habitat, buffer water quality, and protect the coast line from coastal storms like nor’easters. Salt marshes are the “bread basket” of the coast supporting the fishing industry by providing food and shelter for finfish and shellfish, and slowing flood waters to avoid destruction of coastal properties.

Since the early 1990’s the DES Coastal Program and Wetlands Bureau staff have worked in partnership with local towns, other state and federal agencies, and non-profit organizations, as well as with diverse funding contributors to undo the damage to our salt marshes. These collaborations and partnerships across 30 different projects have resulted in the restoration of about 600 acres of salt marsh.  Salt marsh restoration projects, which aim to bring back natural conditions, involve activities such as removal of fill, creation of pools and tidal creeks, and removal of undersized culverts.  The tides are the lifelines for salt marshes; without them they choke to death.

As an example, at the Awcomin salt marsh, located just to the west of Rye Harbor, dredged materials from the harbor were disposed of within a 25 plus acre containment dike constructed directly on the salt marsh in 1941 and again in 1962.  Sea water could no longer enter the containment area and fresh water from rain and snow was trapped. Tidal exchange and fresh water runoff, together known as tidal flushing, are essential to a viable salt marsh ecosystem. The restoration process involved removing over 100,000 cubic yards of dredge spoils from the site in order to restore or replicate the original drainage pattern. Today the site has regained much of its vitality and is a great spot for watching shore birds.  The Town of Rye has been a leader in salt marsh restoration in New Hampshire.

The Little River salt marsh restoration in North Hampton faced severe tidal restriction due to an undersized roadway culvert and a channel through the barrier beach which was blocked with sand. Restoration project partners, including  the Town of North Hampton and local private citizens raised a total of $1.31 million to bring the project to fruition.  In 2000, a pair of 6 ft. high x 12 ft. wide concrete box culverts were installed in place of the existing 48 inch pipe that had been the only connection between the salt marsh and the sea since 1948.  The success of the project received national recognition in 2002 when President George W. Bush awarded the Little River Salt March Restoration Team the Coastal America Award. 

Healthy salt marshes are not only rich with life, they are also part of nature’s basic strategy of protecting our coastlines from a changing climate, including a greater frequency of strong storms and sea levels rise. Restored salt marshes, free of tidal restrictions, are more resilient and better equipped to help mitigate the potential damage from severe coastal storms, such as recently seen on the East Coast with Hurricane Sandy. We have certainly worked over the last 25 years to correct human impacts on salt marshes, and we will be looking to our salt marshes over the next 25 years to help us to adapt to future changes and the needs of our coastal areas. 

What’s in Your Well? It’s Well Worth Testing
By Leslie O’Donnell - 11-19-12

What’s in the water you’re drinking?

That’s a question worth asking if you live in New Hampshire, where the geology of the region makes it a good possibility that you have naturally occurring arsenic in your bedrock well.

And it was the topic for the Lamprey River Watershed Association’s annual meeting, held Nov. 15 at the Raymond Baptist Church. Paul Susca, supervisor for Planning, Protection and Assistance at the Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES), was featured speaker at the spaghetti dinner.

His presentation, which included a video titled “In Small Doses” produced by Dartmouth College, was geared to education, not to scare anyone, but emphasized the importance of routine testing of wells, particularly for the presence of arsenic.

Susca said that 40 percent of the state’s residents are on private wells, and a show of hands showed the vast majority of those in attendance were also. He said the highest proportion of arsenic-contaminated wells is in the southeastern quarter of the state – home to Rockingham County. He noted that some towns in the area, among them Bow, Derry, Pelham, Salem and Windham, require testing of private wells, something that the state does not mandate. Hollis, Dublin and Tuftonboro have townwide voluntary well testing.

Susca also noted that 20 percent of bedrock wells in New Hampshire have arsenic concentrations over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) .010 parts per million standard for public water systems. That translates to 10 parts per billion. And Susca said 14 percent of the wells in Rockingham County would exceed that amount.

But even a well with arsenic levels at or below that level does not mean things are good. For example, at the 10 parts per billion level, the lifetime risk of bladder cancer from arsenic is one in 300. Susca said the safe goal for arsenic is zero.

But the news is not all bad. Current studies show arsenic ingestion comes by way of drinking water, rather than through skin absorption or inhalation. That means arsenic in well water can be treated at the kitchen tap – the “point of use” - rather than for the entire house, or the “point of entry.”

Arsenic is not the only thing that could be lurking unseen in a bedrock well. Susca said a significant number of wells in the state contain uranium and radon. And there are a host of other potential contaminants well testing can measure.

What’s going on at a neighbor’s well does not offer predictive power to what might be in your well water. Every well, Susca said, should be tested.

DES encourages annual basic testing, which he said costs about $30, and more extensive testing every three to five years.

While the testing itself is not expensive, treatment prices vary by contaminant and whether point of entry or point of use treatment is needed. But he suggested private well owners should look at that cost in light of what they spend on other utilities – for heating fuel and electricity, for example – and consider it part of the price of owning and maintaining a home.

Fact sheets about well contaminants in New Hampshire, and how to treat them, as well as information about well testing, are available at the DES website at  www.des.nh.gov  . 

New Hampshire’s Dams – The Secret to Our Lakes
By Thomas S. Burack, DES Commissioner 11-14-12

Since 1987, when the National Weather Service has predicted severe rain events to affect New Hampshire, a small, well-prepared crew at the state’s Department of Environmental Services has stood ready to prevent flooding from whatever storm Mother Nature sends our way. The DES Dam Bureau, which joined DES when the agency was created by the legislature in 1987, is responsible for the safety of the more than 2,600 dams in the state, including the year-round maintenance and repair of all 274 state-owned dams. The Dam Bureau ensures that the dams are structurally sound and functioning as designed, so that when severe storms, such as Hurricane Sandy, bring high volumes of water—and they do—the staff can confidently release the right amounts of water from the state-owned dams to reduce flooding. It’s a science and an art that the Dam Bureau has devoted itself to, especially in the last 8 years or so as New Hampshire has experienced three one-hundred year floods and two hurricanes. 

State-owned dams impound the largest and most important recreational lakes in the state, including Winnipesaukee, Squam, Winnisquam, Newfound, Sunapee and Ossipee.  These lakes provide a myriad of recreational opportunities for boaters, swimmers, anglers, and others, and are home to a rich array of waterfowl, wildlife, fish and other aquatic species. The dams on these large lakes also help to control the volume of water flowing into some of the major rivers of the state, which in turn affect industries and recreation downstream.  And this means that water levels must be constantly monitored, even during good weather, and frequent adjustments made by the dam operators to ensure that appropriate levels are maintained.

Many of the state’s dams, particularly those on the large lakes, were constructed in the mid-1800s to provide waterpower to fuel the great Industrial Revolution-era mills of New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Most of the dams that the state owns are well over 100 years old. Because of their age, they require continued attention to maintain them in a safe condition. Twenty-nine of the state-owned dams are “high hazard,” meaning that their failure would cause loss of life downstream, and 53 are “significant hazard” dams, which would cause significant property damage downstream if they failed.  More than 4,000 homes, 130 state road crossings and 800 town road crossings would be destroyed or damaged were all of these state-owned dams to fail. 

According to the New Hampshire Lake Association’s Report on the Economic Value of New Hampshire’s Surface Waters, New Hampshire’s lakes provide up to $1.5 billion annually of economic benefit to the state, and waterfront property owners pay nearly a quarter-billion dollars annually in property taxes. Since the majority of New Hampshire’s surface waters are impounded by state-owned dams, the upkeep of these dams is vitally important, not only to protect public safety and the environment, but also to maintain the large economic benefits that they provide.  In 1996, a privately-owned, significant hazard dam in Alton failed. One person died, and approximately $8 million worth of property damage occurred when the Rte. 140 road crossing downstream was destroyed. The flooding seven years ago in Alstead also dramatically illustrated the destructive force of a sudden release of stored water, which killed 5 people and caused some $35 million of damage downstream. Using the costs of these tragedies as a yardstick, it is clear that many thousands of lives and hundreds of millions of dollars of property are at risk downstream of state-owned and maintained dams.

To keep all of these dams safe, the Dam Bureau must conduct daily maintenance, including keeping the areas around the dams continually mowed to prevent the growth of woody vegetation whose roots could threaten the safety of the dams. Every day, the Dam Bureau staff performs a unique balancing act of managing water releases from the state-owned dams so as not to cause property damage on the lakes and downstream, while also ensuring appropriate lake levels to support wildlife, boating and all of the many ways in which we love to enjoy our lakes.

As DES recognizes our 25th Anniversary this year, we salute the DES Dam Bureau for the critical role they play in reducing flooding risks during major storm events, and daily in safely maintaining our dams to support economic activity and our wonderful quality of life – proof positive that in New Hampshire a healthy environment and a strong economy are positively linked.

New Hampshire’s Rivers – What a Difference a Generation Makes
By Thomas S. Burack, DES Commissioner - 10-25-12

Within a single generation we have seen rivers go from catching fire to running clear and clean. Many of us can still remember in 1969 watching TV broadcasts of the Cuyahoga River in Ohio on fire. The toxic pollution that ignited in that river wasn’t unique to the Cuyahoga – rivers across the nation were heavily polluted, including many right here in New Hampshire. But that image of a river afire was seared into our collective conscience and helped to change the way our nation thinks about our waterways and the environment in general. In 1972 Congress enacted the Clean Water Act, and the clean-up of rivers across the country commenced. By the time the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services was formed in 1987, the NH Water Supply and Pollution Control Commission (one of DES’s predecessor agencies) had already worked with many communities and industries to implement river water quality improvements including more effective wastewater treatment technologies. 

Additionally, the New Hampshire legislature, recognizing that our rivers are significant economic and aesthetic assets, created the New Hampshire Rivers Management and Protection Program (Rivers Program) in 1988, just one year after the formation of DES.  Like DES this year, the Rivers Program will celebrate its 25th Anniversary next year. A distinctive characteristic of the Rivers Program is the partnership created between and among state government, local citizens and their towns through the formation of a local advisory committee (LAC) for each designated river.  Across the state, there are approximately 200 people who volunteer their time and expertise to an LAC. These local groups have worked to successfully designate 18 rivers or river segments into the Rivers Program.  These designated rivers meander through more than half of New Hampshire’s cities and towns and total approximately 1,000 river miles.

The LACs develop and implement a local river corridor management plan and advise local, state and federal agencies of activities that may affect the water quality or flow of the designated river. For example, the Exeter River LAC worked to replace culverts in Sandown which were undersized and not capable of adequately passing flood waters. With these replacements, the need for road repairs will decline and the passage of fish and other aquatic species will improve.

While we have made real progress cleaning up our rivers and the water quality is generally good, they continue to be polluted by wastewater discharges, failed septic systems, rain and snow that carry airborne pollution, and agricultural and urban stormwater discharges containing bacteria, road salt, oils and other pollutants. Recognizing the need to document river water quality and wanting to engage interested and concerned individuals and groups, DES established the Volunteer River Assessment Program (VRAP) in 1998.  Since DES has limited staff available to conduct water quality monitoring, it is the data collected by these volunteers and other professionals that DES uses to make informed decisions to correct water quality problems. VRAP now supports 28 volunteer groups and 200 volunteers who monitor 250 stations on numerous rivers throughout the state.

But managing rivers is not just about water quality; understanding the water quantity characteristics of our rivers is equally important. River flows are altered by human activities such as dam operation, watershed development, water withdrawals and wastewater discharges. Another component of the Rivers Program is the Instream Flow Program, whose goal is to ensure that the water within our rivers will support human and natural uses. Currently, the Instream Flow Program is working on pilot projects on the Lamprey and Souhegan Rivers to determine how to best meet the needs of water users and not harm the river ecosystems.

Given our historic relationship with our rivers, we will continue to expect our rivers to sustain our lives by providing us with safe drinking water, boating and fishing opportunities, flood protection, and hydroelectric power, while ensuring the health of plant and animal life. We must keep our rivers clean and healthy in order to sustain our economy and quality of life. As DES marks its 25th Anniversary, we look forward to another 25 years of working with volunteers, organizations and communities from across the state to make sure that rivers on fire become an ever-more-distant memory, and that our future memories of our rivers are of clean, clear waters for all to enjoy. 

DES’s Management of Septic Systems Has Protected Public Health and Public Waters for Over 25 Years - By Thomas S. Burack, DES Commissioner - 10-15-25

Now celebrating our 25th year of serving New Hampshire’s citizens and environment, we at the Department of Environmental Services raise a glass of clean drinking water to … septic systems.  Yes, septic systems!  When you flush a toilet, wash your hands, take a shower, or run a load of laundry, all that dirty water has to go somewhere.  For many of us living in the largely rural state of New Hampshire, our wastewater ends up most often is what we commonly call a septic system – a buried tank and an underground disposal area that allows the dirty water to seep into the ground where bacteria are broken down.

Over the years, we’ve learned the hard way that when a septic system fails or gets clogged, the untreated wastewater can result in widespread contamination of lakes and rivers, as well as of the waters under the ground that are tapped by public and private wells as the source of our drinking water.  Because the harmful bacteria, viruses and toxic chemicals in wastewater are usually odorless and invisible, people and animals may unknowingly swim in or drink contaminated water, sometimes with very unfortunate results: they may develop infections, gastrointestinal illnesses, or deadly diseases like cholera and hepatitis.  Even a single failed septic system can cause serious health problems.

To make matters worse, excess nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, in wastewater discharges cause plant and algae growth in lakes, ponds and tidal waters, which in turn consumes the oxygen that’s dissolved in the water, thereby creating an environment in which fish can’t survive.  Studies completed by DES on our lakes show that discharges from septic systems typically contribute 16 - 20 percent of the total phosphorus load in these water bodies.

Fortunately, here in New Hampshire our legislature has long recognized the vital role that septic systems play in keeping wastewater from seeping onto our properties, or into our drinking water or favorite lakes, ponds, rivers and streams.  Dating back to the 1960s, the Water Supply and Pollution Control Commission, one of DES’s predecessor state agencies, was charged with developing a statewide program to ensure the safe treatment of wastewater in septic systems.  This effort was complemented by federal laws enacted by Congress in the 1970s to address the larger challenges of water pollution and ensuring clean, safe drinking water.

New Hampshire first required septic system installers and designers to be licensed in 1980. Design and installation methods, as well as treatment and disposal technologies have improved immensely over the past 25 years. In the earlier days of DES, the “wet sneaker test” was commonly used to determine if soils were adequate for a septic system location.  Today, new soil analysis technologies enable us to more accurately determine the ability of the soil to treat the effluent, thus improving one of the most vital aspects of septic system design.

While laws can define basic requirements and design elements, the homeowner is ultimately responsible for a properly functioning and healthy septic system. This means having the system inspected and pumped out by a licensed professional at least every two to three years; keeping grease, toxic substances and other inappropriate wastes or additives out of the system; conserving water, since too much water can overload a system; and not allowing heavy vehicles, firewood, sheds, trees or shrubs to be sited over the tank, distribution box or leach field.  A well-maintained septic system can function properly for 25-50 years.  Even well maintained septic systems can contribute nutrients to nearby surface waters, but there is hope that emerging technologies will help to cost-effectively reduce this risk over time.

Gone are the days of cesspools, open trenches and pipes carrying human wastes and effluent directly into nearby lakes and rivers.  In the 25 years that the Department of Environmental Services has served the residents of New Hampshire, we have been proud to work with homeowners, businesses and municipalities to ensure that the hundreds of thousands of septic systems in the state are providing the necessary and vital protection of our drinking water, lakes, rivers, tidal waters and public health.  DES’s work in this arena will never be done.  Rather, constant vigilance is necessary to protect the clean water that is essential to New Hampshire’s economy, shoreland property values, recreation and wildlife habitat, and the health of our residents and visitors.

Author’s Note: In recognition of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services’ 25th Anniversary, over the course of the year, I am highlighting 25 agency activities, programs, projects and accomplishments of the past 25 years. This article, the 17th in the series, discusses the importance of properly designed, installed and maintained septic systems to public health and the environment.  All of the editorials in the series are available at http://m1e.net/c?158049860-3LRzRborWnw06%407971861-MrqCd6SerdreQ

Grants Available for Keeping New Hampshire Waters Clean - 10-8-12

Concord, NH — New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services is now accepting proposals for the 2013 Watershed Assistance Grants to support local initiatives to restore impaired waters or protect high quality waters. The application deadline is November 21, 2012.

These grants are offered to municipalities, non-profit organizations, state agencies, regional planning commission, and county conservation districts. Funds can be used to develop and implement approved watershed plans that address specific water pollution problems. Water quality improvement must be measured. Solutions can include a wide range of activities, such as installing rain gardens, green roofs, and porous pavement, stabilizing stream banks, and implementing stormwater utilities.

Funds for Watershed Assistance Grants are appropriated through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. Approximately $400,000 will be available for grants this year. DES awards and administers the grants to local New Hampshire organizations.

DES will assist applicants in developing comprehensive, outcome-based project proposals. Please contact Eric Williams at (603) 271-2358, eric.williams@des.nh.gov , or Jeff Marcoux at (603) 271-8862, jeffrey.marcoux@des.nh.gov ,for assistance and to address eligibility before completing a proposal.

For more information and a copy of the proposal form, please log-on to http://m1e.net/c?158049860-gL2/NIsfG2.9Q%407948291-cRDR.uv1bCeOk

Is Your Septic Tank Full of It? - 9-26-12

It is hard to believe that fall is here, the season where homeowners must rush to finish all of those outdoor projects before the snow flies and ground freezes. Fall is the perfect time to remember what lies below the surface, your septic system! If you don’t remember when you last had your septic tank pumped, then chances are you’re overdue. You don’t want to wait until you have a problem and there is two feet of snow and ice to dig through to find your septic tank cover. 

For most homeowners, the septic system is out of sight, out of mind. But it is important for us to know the basics. Your septic system is a complex system designed to treat waste water from your home before it is discharged into the ground. This system is composed of two parts: 1) a tank designed to remove solids, and 2) a leaching field that further treats the water before it becomes part of the groundwater again. Septic tanks should be inspected annually and pumped every two to three years, to help ensure proper operation of the system.

Failure of the system can occur if it is not properly maintained, and cause quite a mess inside and outside of your home. This failure can also result in the release of pollution such as nutrients, chemicals and bacteria into the ground water or surface water. This should be a concern to you, especially if you rely on well water for your drinking water supply or live near a waterbody such as a stream, river, lake or wetland. 

Be aware that what you put down the drain or toilet has an impact on maintenance costs and the overall life of the system. Follow these suggestions for best results: 

- Keep grease and garbage out of your drains, and avoid garbage disposal systems. The leftovers cause tanks to fill more quickly and slow the digestion process. 

- Conserve water by fixing leaks, installing water efficient appliances and fixtures, and not letting water run unnecessarily. This will minimize the volume of water your system must treat and extend the life of your system. 

- Only flush biodegradable wastes down the toilet. Non-biodegradable products like used cigarettes, clay based cat litter, and feminine hygiene products will clog the system. 

- Avoid putting hazardous materials down the drain. Paints, varnishes, chlorinated water, disinfectants, and expired prescription medications can contaminate the groundwater, clog the system, and be deadly to the essential working bacteria. 

Other more visible events can occur due to lack of maintenance or misuse, such as a “system back up,” which results in raw sewage in your home or a saturated leach field where waste water appears at the ground surface. The costs from these situations can be far more expensive than the cost of regular maintenance like routine pumping of your septic system. 

To learn more about your septic system, the Department of Environmental Service has a free video about septic systems on its web site at DES Septic System Video.

GREENWorks  Ideas for a Cleaner Environment 
A publication of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, Concord, NH (603) 271-3710 

Drawdown of Lakes and Ponds Schedule
The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) announced today that the annual fall drawdown of the lakes and ponds controlled by dams owned by DES will be initiated according to the  Drawdown of Lakes and Ponds schedule found on the DES website.

25-Plus Years of Cleaning Up Our Coast - By Thomas S. Burack, DES Commissioner 9-11-12

In recognition of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services’ 25th Anniversary, over the course of the year, I will highlight 25 agency activities, programs, projects and accomplishments of the past 25 years. This article, the 15th in the series, discusses the annual International Coastal Cleanup Day. 

Even though New Hampshire has the shortest coastline in New England, only 18 miles, our beaches aren’t immune from becoming garbage dumps for marine debris. And with nearly 230 additional shoreline miles of bays, harbors, tidal rivers and estuaries, there’s even more territory for wastes to be washed up in New Hampshire. But, rather than just complaining or blaming others for this trash, New Hampshire has a proud, 25-year tradition of volunteer efforts to clean up our beaches and shoreline. 

Each September since 1986, a year before DES was formed, New Hampshire volunteers come together as part of a worldwide event called International Coastal Cleanup Day. It’s the largest volunteer one-day event of its kind in which people from all over the world clean beaches on the same day. It was started by the Ocean Conservancy, whose mission is to keep oceans healthy.  Last year in New Hampshire alone, 1,110 volunteers collected 8,037 pounds of debris, which totaled approximately 44,000 pieces.

This year’s Coastal Cleanup on September 15 will be conducted at more than 25 sites along the New Hampshire coast and Great Bay. Volunteers will help clean local beaches and will record their findings on data cards to help study trends in marine pollution. The most common items found from year to year include cigarette butts, food wrappers and containers, caps and lids, rope, and plastic bags. All of these items can kill marine life and cause a major eyesore for folks trying to enjoy the beach. No one wants to walk, swim or play near marine debris! 

Cleanups not only keep our coasts beautiful, they also help protect public health by removing potentially dangerous trash. Fishing lines, hooks and syringes are some of the dangerous debris that has turned up in New Hampshire. Fishing lines and nets, ropes and other trash can wrap around fins, flippers and limbs of birds, whales, seals, and other animals, affecting their ability to eat, move and care for their young. 

The Coastal Program, prior to joining DES in 2004, was originally part of the Office of State Planning, and helped to coordinate the first ever New Hampshire Coastal Cleanup and continued to coordinate and recruit volunteers until 2004. Since 2005, the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation, based out of Portsmouth, has been awarded a federal grant passed through the DES Coastal Program to coordinate the International Coastal Cleanup Day in New Hampshire, with some additional sponsors.    The Blue Ocean Society works throughout the year to educate the public about the problems of marine debris and the importance of proper trash disposal. 

The Blue Ocean Society has been a tremendous partner to DES in conducting marine debris removal and education activities, including coordinating the annual International Coastal Cleanup Day, Adopt-A-Beach programs, and public education and outreach in schools, aboard whale watches, and in other public venues. 

Most importantly DES and Blue Ocean Society could not do this work without volunteers. The heart of the cleanup is the people who care about our beaches. It’s a time when individuals, families, and small and large groups come together to preserve part of what makes New Hampshire great. These efforts have certainly paid off – New Hampshire was named second in the nation for cleanest coastal beaches in 2011 by The Natural Resources Defense Council. So this weekend, mark it on your calendar to spend a few hours on the beach helping to keep New Hampshire’s beaches and shoreline the envy of the nation.

Act Now to Protect Your Groundwater
Protect Your Groundwater Day is September 11

Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) urges every New Hampshire resident and visitor to protect groundwater—the largest source of drinking water in the state, the United States and the world. A good time to start is Protect Your Groundwater Day, September 11. 

“Every person can play a role in protecting groundwater—from keeping it clean to using water wisely,” said Sarah Pillsbury, administrator of the Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau at DES. “Each of us is responsible for protecting our shared groundwater resources. For many people, this means a small adjustment in their daily activities, such as fixing leaks and storing household chemicals so they can’t spill onto the ground.”

What are some other specific actions New Hampshire residents can take?

When it comes to hazardous household substances:
•      Store them properly in sealed containers in a secure place.
•   Use them according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
•  Dispose of them safely. 
•    Learn about household hazardous waste collections at www.des.nh.gov; in the A to Z List, click on “Household Hazardous Waste.”

To conserve water:
•      Modify your water use by taking shorter showers, watering your lawn in the morning or washing only full loads of laundry.
•     Install a water-saving device, such as a low-flow toilet or water-efficient appliance.
•      For more information about conserving water, visit www.des.nh.gov; in the A to Z List, click on “Water Conservation.”

If you own a water well:
•     Move possible contamination sources a safe distance from the wellhead.
•      Inspect and properly maintain your septic system.
•     Have your water well system inspected.
•      Properly decommission any abandoned wells on your property with the help of a professional.

Although a few months ago, it appeared that New Hampshire was at the onset of drought, current conditions are generally within normal ranges. Groundwater levels and other drought indicators can be checked at www.des.nh.gov; search for “drought conditions.” 

Protect Your Groundwater Day was started by the National Ground Water Association (NGWA).  Learn other ways to protect groundwater by visiting the  NGWA Protect Your Groundwater Day web page

For more information about groundwater protection in New Hampshire, visit www.des.nh.gov; in the A to Z List, click on “Groundwater Protection.” And, for information about testing your private well, visit www.des.nh.gov; in the A to Z List, click on “Private Well Testing.”

Tackling Phosphorus in our Lakes. Great progress has been made in 25 years. - By Thomas S. Burack, DES Commissioner - 8-29-12

In recognition of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services’ 25th Anniversary, over the course of the year, I will highlight 25 agency activities, programs, projects and accomplishments of the past 25 years. This article, the 13th in the series, discusses the work done to address phosphorus pollution in our lakes.

In the 1970s, Kezar Lake in Sutton looked more like pea soup than lake water. While it has since been rectified, the lake’s high growth of algae was a result of one of New London’s wastewater treatment facilities discharging sewage to a tributary of the lake, introducing much more phosphorus into the lake than it could handle. Across New Hampshire in the 1970s, prior to the federal Clean Water Act and State oversight, algal blooms frequently occurred from phosphorus overload, rendering many of our lakes and ponds polluted and scum-filled.

The 1970s, however, was also a decade of great advancement in lake science. This combination of degradation of public water resources and improved scientific knowledge was the catalyst for change regarding how we manage and regulate our lakes. For example, in the 1980s, New Hampshire changed the law to prevent direct discharges of sewage to lakes, ending a common practice of raw waste disposal that seems horrific to us now.

When, in 1987, the Water Resources Council and the Water Supply and Pollution Control Commission came under the single administration of DES, state scientists and regulators were better able to affect change to prevent pollution from entering our precious water bodies. In addition, DES biologists were assisted in their lake monitoring by the fledgling Volunteer Lake Assessment Program--a small group of enthusiastic volunteers representing a handful of participating lakes. 

Today, with over 180 lakes now participating, VLAP is one of DES’s longest running successful programs. The quality-controlled data collected by this important group of volunteers helps DES assess the health of our lakes and ponds. In addition to phosphorus, the volunteers monitor for clarity, pH, chloride, chlorophyll-a, bacteria and other parameters. 

In 1991, the State Legislature enacted the original Comprehensive Shoreland Protection Act, which included requirements for vegetated buffers and setbacks, and limitations for buildings and fertilizer (which contains phosphorus). By limiting fertilizer usage along the shorelines of lakes and rivers, another avenue of phosphorus entering our waterbodies was eliminated. In 1994, New Hampshire banned phosphorus in most household detergents, thus reducing the residual phosphorus in the wastewater that causes pollution.

Lake management efforts since the 1990s have focused on addressing phosphorus sources emanating from the land areas that drain to our surface waters, areas known as watersheds.

While a forested watershed will naturally deliver some phosphorus to waterbodies, human activities have the potential to increase the delivered phosphorus load dramatically. Some sources include septic systems, fertilizers, animal waste and sediment from erosion and winter sanding. Changes in vegetation can also affect phosphorus runoff by making lakeside areas more attractive to geese and ducks that potentially add nutrients to the watershed and waterbody by defecating along the shoreline and in the waterbody directly.

As lake residents and watershed managers address these sources, there is growing use and acceptance of development techniques that have a low impact on the environment.  Low impact development minimizes runoff, and infiltrates stormwater into the ground onsite to the extent possible. Less runoff means less sediment, both from the landscape and from stream bank erosion, and less sediment means less phosphorus delivered to lakes.

While the Shoreland Protection Act, recently renamed the Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act, restricts fertilizer use, it only applies to the first 250 feet from the shore. Since most New Hampshire soils do not require phosphorus to support lawns, except when seeding new areas, there is still great potential for reducing excess phosphorus applied unnecessarily. New Hampshire is working with neighboring states through the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) to develop voluntary guidelines for the manufacture, labeling, and application of fertilizer.

By focusing on this one pollutant—phosphorus—over the last 25 years, fewer of New Hampshire’s beautiful lakes look like pea soup. DES is proud to be playing a leading role in helping enhance the quality of life that is unique to New Hampshire by continuing to tackle the problems that are caused by pollution in our lakes. 

News from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.

Why Keeping New Hampshire’s Lakes Clean is Worth It - By Thomas S. Burack, DES Commissioner - 7-23-12

In recognition of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services’ 25th Anniversary, over the course of the year, I will highlight 25 agency activities, programs, projects and accomplishments of the past 25 years. This article, the twelfth in the series, discusses the importance of New Hampshire’s lakes.

Whether you enjoy water sports, boating, relaxing in the sun or taking in the extraordinary water views while driving or hiking, our beautiful lakes provide a quality of life that is unique to New Hampshire.  During the summer people travel near and far to enjoy our sparkling lakes. In fact, July has been proclaimed by Governor Lynch as Lakes Appreciation Month, but here at the Department of Environmental Services (DES) we are focused on protecting our lakes all 12 months of the year. Even before DES became New Hampshire’s environmental agency 25 years ago, the staff at one of our predecessor agencies, the Water Supply and Pollution Control Commission, and countless volunteers had been hard at work around the state to ensure that New Hampshire’s lakes would be swimmable, fishable, and generally enjoyable to all.

As the Governor’s proclamation notes, “New Hampshire lakes are invaluable economic resources for Granite State businesses, tourists and municipal governments.”  Freshwater recreation, including boating, fishing and swimming, in the Lakes region alone generate approximately $210 million dollars in sales, $74 million in household income, and 3,313 jobs annually (Nordstrom, 2007).  Statewide, these number more than triple.

One key to maintaining the economic benefits that are derived from New Hampshire’s lakes and ponds is water clarity, a direct measure of water quality.  An increase in water clarity has been proven to increase property values as well as recreational use on a lake, thereby increasing tax base and the number of jobs and revenue produced in relation to these activities.

So how is water clarity in New Hampshire’s lakes?  The answer to that question, based on 25 years of monitoring data, is that our lakes are generally in good condition.   However, statewide, lake waters are getting less clear at a rate of about 1% year.  Lake clarity is a measure of how far down you can see into a lake, and it can be used to measure changes in a lake over time. Reduced water clarity is usually due to pollution from people’s activities on the land.

The biggest problem facing our lakes today is polluted stormwater runoff.  With increases in paved surfaces, roofs and other impervious surfaces, the amount of water that runs over the land, and the rate at which it does, will only increase.  This water will pick up whatever it flows over – including soil, pet waste, fertilizers and pesticides, gas, oil or trash - and carry it down hill into lakes and ponds, thereby polluting the water. With reduced vegetated buffers, particularly in the near shore area of these lakes, there is little opportunity for the water to sink into the ground or be filtered by vegetation. Maintaining the existing natural vegetation and the protection of natural vegetated buffers around lakes and ponds is the single most important thing that people can do to protect water quality.

Concerns about unprecedented growth around our lakes in the 1980s led directly to the passage of the Lakes Management and Protection Program in 1990 and the Comprehensive Shoreland Protection Act in 1991 (recently renamed the Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act).  Both of these pieces of legislation have helped to protect our lakes. With the passage of the Lakes Management and Protection Act, the Lakes Management Advisory Committee (LMAC) was established. The LMAC, which consists of 19 members, is the only committee of its kind in the state, providing advice and oversight regarding the comprehensive management of the state’s lakes and ponds.

In addition to the state’s efforts, there are hundreds of lake associations that serve as the eyes and ears of their lakes and the lands above these lakes that provide the water to fill them (also know as a “watershed”). Most of what we now know about the water quality and the condition of our lakes comes from our Volunteer Lake Assessment Program (VLAP), which was formed in 1985. Hundreds of dedicated VLAP volunteers collect data on 180 lakes each summer looking at the three main indicators of lake health: water clarity, algal growth, and total phosphorus (the nutrient that promotes algal growth). The data from these lakes provide an excellent picture of overall lake quality.

If our lakes are clean and clear, the recreational, social, aesthetic opportunities and the economic activity they afford the state will flourish. It’s been a beautiful summer already on New Hampshire’s lakes and ponds, and here at DES we’re proud to be playing a leading role in protecting our waterbodies to enhance our economy and the long-term viability of the New Hampshire way of life.

New Hampshire Water Sustainability Commission Seeks Public Input Through July 31, 2012- 7-17-12

Concord, NH - The New Hampshire Water Sustainability Commission is seeking feedback via a written public comment period regarding how New Hampshire residents envision managing the water challenges faced by New Hampshire over the next 25 years. The Commission will be using this information, along with reports from other public engagement opportunities, to develop recommendations for what must be accomplished to ensure clean, plentiful and affordable water in the state. Comments may be submitted to the Water Sustainability Commission via the following link until July 31, 2012 click Water Sustainability Commisson Survey.

The New Hampshire Water Sustainability Commission is dedicated to identifying strategies and sustainable management measures to ensure that the quality and quantity of New Hampshire's water resources are as good in the future as, or better than, they are today.  To help accomplish this, the Commission is seeking to build an informed and engaged public to assist in this effort. 

Public comments will be considered for inclusion in the final report of the Commission's work, which will be submitted to the Governor in September 2012.

The Commission was established by Governor John Lynch through Executive Order 2011-2   in April 2011. One of its goals is to secure the place of water and water-related issues as a priority to be addressed by future Governors and legislative sessions along with community leaders from all sectors of New Hampshire life. The Commission provides access to their work and information about water-related concerns in the state through the hosting of an up-to-date website, the creation of an email address where the public can reach the Commission directly with questions or comments, and the offering of several statewide conversations centering around New Hampshire water issues. All Commission meetings are open to the public; meeting times and minutes from past meetings are posted on their website.

For further information about the New Hampshire Water Sustainability Commission, visit the following website: Water Sustainablity Commission  or contact the Commission via email: watersustainabilitycommission@gmail.com. 

Lake and river residents - DES Warns of Expanding Infestations of Exotic Aquatic Plants Infestations

Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) has documented two new infestations of variable milfoil, an exotic aquatic plant, within a week of each other.  Both infestations were well-established when found and appear to have been present for at least 2-3 years before being reported. 

Freshwater exotic aquatic plants are those that are not naturally found in New Hampshire’s lakes, ponds and rivers, and because they are not naturally found here, they have no predators or diseases that keep them in check, allowing them to grow quickly. These exotic plants dominate the shallows of freshwater systems, to the detriment of native plants, fish, aquatic insects and other aquatic life.  Exotic aquatic plants lead to water quality impairments, can reduce shorefront property values, and can be problematic to the aesthetic and recreational values of waterbodies.

New Hampshire, with these two new additions, now has a total of 78 infested waterbodies, most containing variable milfoil as the primary invasive plant, while others have fanwort, Eurasian water milfoil, water chestnut and Didymo (also known as rock snot, an invasive algae), among other common species.  This tally includes 67 lakes and ponds and 11 river systems.

DES has an Exotic Species Program that focuses on prevention, early detection and rapid response to these plants. Prevention activities are achieved through education and outreach about the problem of invasive species and through smart boater activities that involve inspecting and cleaning transient recreation gear before entering a waterbody and after exiting that waterbody. Boats, trailers, fishing gear, SCUBA gear and other items that come in contact with the water should be checked so that they do not spread exotic plants between waterbodies.  Early detection activities are also achieved through a network of volunteers that are trained to identify the various exotic species and to report any new infestations. Rapid response activities initiated at the state level are aimed at containment and control so that new infestations can be eradicated or greatly reduced, so that they do not come to dominate a waterbody.

The two new infestations that were documented were on waterbodies without established programs for prevention and early detection, so they went unnoticed until they covered large areas. When infestations reach this level they are more difficult to manage, and eradication is not often feasible.

The early ice out this year, along with warmer than average temperatures have contributed to more pronounced and rapid growth of exotic species.  The DES urges lake and river residents and transient boaters to routinely monitor for exotic aquatic plants and report new infestations. Look for plants that appear to be dominating an area of a lake or river bed, that are brighter green in color, and that appear to be spreading quickly.  Maps of existing infestations, as well as information, photographs and descriptions on exotic and prohibited plants in New Hampshire can be found on the Exotic Species Program Page at www.des.nh.gov.

Hampton Beach State Park is rated a Five Star Beach by NRDC
N.H. Coastal Beaches rated 2nd Cleanest Beaches in Nation
- June 28, 2012

Concord, NH – The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has rated Hampton Beach State Park a five star beach and called New Hampshire coastal beaches 2nd cleanest in the nation. The NRDC has published its 22nd Annual “Testing the Waters” report analyzing beach data reported to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by coastal and Great Lakes states. The NRDC report rated 200 beaches nationally on a five star scale with only 12 beaches nationally receiving all five stars.  In addition to Hampton Beach State Park, Wallis Sands Beach at Wallis Road also received a five star rating.

Only 1 percent of 1,144 samples collected at coastal New Hampshire beaches during 2011 exceeded the state standard of 104 counts of Enterococci/100 ml of water.  New Hampshire ranks second among the 30 states that are part of the EPA’s beach monitoring program, behind Delaware.  Of the 16 New Hampshire beaches sampled in 2011, 10 did not have any elevated bacteria results at all. 

“Thanks to the collaborative efforts of DES, the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation, the local communities that host the beaches, non-profit organizations like the Blue Ocean Society and the NH Surfrider Foundation, as well as their countless volunteers, New Hampshire’s coastal beaches year after year continue to score as the cleanest in the country,” said DES Commissioner Tom Burack.

“Hampton Beach State Park hosts hundreds of thousands visitors a year, we are proud to offer them a Five Star Beach,” stated Commissioner George Bald, Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) The Commissioner also applauded DES for their efforts to keep our waters and shorelines clean. Part of Bald’s agency, the Division of Parks and Recreation is responsible for the management of this area.

New Hampshire residents should be proud of our coastal water quality and strive to maintain these levels. Simple steps everyone can take will prevent beach pollution in all locations. Everyone can help by picking up pet waste, maintaining septic systems, putting swim diapers with plastic covers on babies, and keeping trash off the beach. Together, everyone can work to maintain New Hampshire’s top rated beaches.

The DES Beach Inspection Program monitors the water at New Hampshire public swimming beaches from late May until early September. Personnel collect water for analysis at coastal and freshwater beaches. The water samples are analyzed for fecal bacteria to protect public health. For more information visit the Programs website.

Updates on current beach advisories and warnings can be found on the DES website,www.des.nh.gov under the Alerts button. Residents can also sign up to receive notifications about beach advisories at the DES E-news subscription service or by following the NHDES Beaches Twitter feed.

The Division of Parks and Recreation is comprised of the Bureau of Park Operations, Bureau of Historic Sites, Bureau of Trails, and Cannon Mountain. The Division manages 92 properties, including state parks, beaches, campgrounds, historic sites, trails, waysides, and natural areas. The Division of Parks and Recreation is one of four divisions of the Department of Resources and Economic Development. To learn more, visit HERE or call 603 271-3556.

To review the NRDC report, visit: HERE.

Celebrate National Oceans Month by Volunteering with the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation - June 25, 2012

Portsmouth, N.H. – People who want to help keep New Hampshire’s coast clean and safe for people and marine life can volunteer with the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation this summer.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation designating June 2012 as National Oceans Month and called upon Americans to take action to protect, conserve, and restore our oceans, coasts, and the Great Lakes.

“Volunteering with the Blue Ocean Society is a perfect way to answer this call to action and celebrate National Oceans Month in June and beyond,” said Steve Couture, DES Coastal Program Manager. The Coastal Program has supported the Blue Ocean Society’s educational and beach cleanup programs through funding since 2004.

The Society’s volunteers choose the level of commitment that best fits their schedules and interests. For instance, volunteers can participate in a monthly beach cleanup or office volunteer night for 1-2 hours at a time, or do something more involved, such as teach people about marine life as a touch tank educator aboard the Thomas Laighton cruise in Portsmouth, or even aboard a whale watch. All opportunities offer the chance to learn more about New Hampshire’s ocean environment while helping the Society fulfill its mission of protecting and preserving it. 

Current Volunteer Opportunities: 

Beach Cleanups-
The Blue Ocean Society holds monthly beach cleanups at several beaches, and is always looking for help! Learn about cleanup information and dates at HERE

Monofilament Recycling Bins-
Help monitor the bins at various locations around the Seacoast by removing fishing line and filling out a short data sheet throughout the summer and fall. 

Volunteer Nights-
Volunteer Nights are always the second Wednesday of the month from 5-7 pm at the Blue Ocean Society office in Portsmouth. Projects have included collating newsletters, organizing merchandise, and helping to make photo note cards. No training is needed, and it's a great way to meet Blue Ocean Society scientists and educators and learn more about what we do, while hanging out with others who care about the marine environment!

Tide Pool/Touch Tank Educator-
The Society is currently looking for help with the touch tank educational program this summer. Minimum commitment of two days per week is preferred. More info and an application is available at HERE. 

E-mail or call Jen Kennedy for more details on how to get involved with any of these opportunities at jen@blueoceansociety.org   or 431-0260.

Learn about more volunteer opportunities by visiting the Blue Ocean Society Volunteer webpage HERE. 

Read the President’s full Proclamation on National Oceans Month HERE.

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Coastal Program provides funding and staff assistance to towns and cities, and other local and regional groups who protect clean water, restore coastal habitats, and help make communities more resilient to flooding and other natural hazards. The program’s efforts are focused on N.H.'s coastal watershed, an area that encompasses 820 square miles and 42 municipalities. The Coastal Program supports the region’s economy by helping to preserve the environmental health of the coast and Great Bay and Hampton-Seabrook estuaries for fishing and shellfishing, and assisting with the maintenance of our ports, harbors and tidal rivers for commercial and recreational uses.

The Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation is a Portsmouth-based non-profit organization that is celebrating its 10th anniversary as a non-profit organization this year.  Its mission is to protect marine mammals in the Gulf of Maine through education, research and conservation. Staff members work on local whale watch and tour boats (including Granite State Whale Watch and Atlantic Fishing & Whale Watching in Rye, NH, Isles of Shoals Steamship Company in Portsmouth, and Newburyport Whale Watch in Newburyport, MA) and use this platform to educate the public on local marine ecosystems and conservation measures.  Blue Ocean Society staff and volunteers also conduct monthly beach cleanups and maintain a student internship program, a sightings database of local whales, and a Web site the public can access for updated sightings and conservation information.  Volunteer and sponsorship opportunities are available.

CONTACT: Catherine Coletti, DES Coastal Program; 559-0024 and
 Jen Kennedy,  Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation, 431-0260

25 Years of Progress in Fighting Ozone Air Pollution in New Hampshire - By Thomas S. Burack, DES Commissioner - June 19, 2012

In recognition of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services’ 25th Anniversary, over the course of the year, I will highlight 25 agency activities, programs, projects and accomplishments of the past 25 years. This article, the tenth in the series, discusses efforts to reduce the health risk associated with exposure to ozone air pollution.

Ozone, a harmful air pollutant, has probably been prevalent in New Hampshire’s air since we began burning large quantities of fuel to power the industrial revolution, but it has only been since the formation of the state’s Department of Environmental Services 25 years ago that real progress has been made in protecting the state’s residents from the harmful effects of ozone.

At ground-level, ozone is formed as a result of chemical reactions caused by the presence of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are released from burning fuels in vehicles, power plants, industrial processes, and the use of chemical cleaners, solvents, and coatings. When these compounds react with strong sunlight they produce ground-level ozone. Ozone irritates, and can damage, the throat and lungs. DES issues an "Air Quality Action Day" in New Hampshire when ozone is forecast to reach unhealthy levels. During an Air Quality Action Day, people are encouraged to take precautionary measures to protect their health, especially in the afternoon when ozone levels tend to be the highest.

The establishment of the Clean Air Act in 1970 was our nation’s most significant effort to reduce air pollution, including NOx and VOCs. The Clean Air Act has reduced asthma attacks, heart disease, and numerous other health conditions that affect many Americans. The 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act set National Ambient Air Quality Standards based on health studies for six pollutants, including carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and ozone. 

In its early years, the Clean Air Act approached air pollution as a local or state concern and directed areas exceeding the health standard to develop plans to reduce air pollution within a defined time period.  In 1977 portions of New Hampshire were not meeting the health standard for ozone. To come into compliance, the air monitoring program was expanded to track air pollution levels in all areas of the state. We worked with industry to reduce pollution, and the legislature enacted a mandatory motor vehicle inspection and maintenance program. Since then, New Hampshire has shown improvements in air quality for nearly all pollutants.

Unfortunately, ozone problems continued within the borders of many eastern states. We now know that a significant portion of the ozone in New Hampshire comes from outside the state. Winds transport ozone in from states to the south and west of us.  These states often resisted limiting their pollution because the ozone they created did not affect them, and they did not wish to be held accountable for contributing to high ozone levels in other states.

To address this issue, in the mid-1990s, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), studied the transport issue with the help of states and stakeholders. This resulted in a program requiring 22 states to reduce nitrogen oxides from power plants.  This program was a success and set the precedent for how to address air pollution transport. This brought all of New Hampshire into compliance with the health standard by the late 1990s.  In 1997, EPA lowered the ozone standard to be more protective, which put southern New Hampshire above the limit. With improved understanding about ozone, the Northeast has made progress toward cleaner cars and fuels and more pollution control equipment on power plants.  New Hampshire successfully met the new ozone standard in 2007.

EPA lowered the ozone standard further in 2008 based on new health studies, but our entire state continues to pass the test. New Hampshire has worked regionally as a member of the 13-state Ozone Transport Commission and participates in other regional and national forums to study and develop solutions to ozone transport. When appropriate, New Hampshire adopts pollution control plans not only to keep our own air from getting worse, but also to keep from polluting those who live downwind of us. 

As we look to the future, DES expects to see EPA set lower health based standards for ozone. We need to continue to build a strong economy while taking advantage of technical advances that allow us to maintain our clean air. New Hampshire is considered one of the most livable states in the nation due in part to our clean air and clean water. We all can continue to enjoy the high quality of life in New Hampshire by working together to ensure that a healthy environment and a strong economy continue to go hand-in-hand. 



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