A Powerful Vote for Clean Water

Peter Wellenberger

Residents of Newmarket, New Hampshire went to the polls on Tuesday and sent a powerful message: that clean water is essential, and that we need to make needed investments to support it.

Up for vote yesterday was a warrant article to fund the $14 million construction of a major upgrade to the town’s sewage treatment plant. The result? More than 80 percent of voters approved the measure, making Newmarket a leading community in the efforts to improve the health of the Great Bay estuary.

Last December, Newmarket’s City Council voted unanimously to become the first New Hampshire Seacoast community to accept stringent reductions in nitrogen pollution from a sewage treatment plant. It has long been recognized that nitrogen from sewage treatment plants is a major, controllable source of the pollution that’s causing the decline of the Great Bay estuary.

Now, thanks to the wisdom of its voters, Newmarket can begin the upgrade of its existing sewage treatment plant – a facility in desperate need of an overhaul. First built in 1965 and last updated in 1985, it has become increasingly difficult – and costly – to maintain the facility. Under the terms of Newmarket’s agreement with EPA, the town now has five years to complete the project. Additional improvements may be required in later years. The town must also develop a comprehensive plan to reduce the impacts from polluted stormwater.

In accepting their final permit and working with EPA – rather than taking the path of endless, costly litigation currently being pursued by Portsmouth, Dover and Rochester – Newmarket town officials chose to be an important part of the solution for the Great Bay estuary. Now, Newmarket voters have taken the next critical step, confirming the town’s willingness to lead in solving our water pollution problems.

Newmarket’s positive vote sends a powerful signal that the people of the Seacoast care about protecting the health of our waters. Municipal officials in Portsmouth, Dover and Rochester need to hear this message, and need to end their ongoing tactics designed to delay needed protections for our estuary – delays that the Great Bay estuary simply can’t afford.

Newmarket voters are to be thanked and congratulated for taking this important, much needed step toward protecting the Lamprey River, Great Bay, and the estuary as a whole, now and for future generations.

For more information about the Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper and my work to protect the Great Bay estuary, visit: https://www.clf.org/great-bay-waterkeeper/. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

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