Great Bay Faces Serious Pollution Threats, But CLF is Fighting Back

Tom Irwin | @TomIrwinNH

Great Bay, the Piscataqua River, and all the waters making up our Great Bay estuary are at the core of what makes our Seacoast communities so special.  Whether kayaking in Little Bay, hiking on Adams Point near Great Bay, or hitting the beach with my kids at Odiorne, I feel lucky to have experienced just a small part of what the Great Bay estuary has to offer.

Unfortunately, as CLF’s Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper Jeff Barnum has said on so many occasions, the future of our local Seacoast waters is uncertain.  Pollution is taking its toll, resulting in major ecological change.  And while we’re starting to make significant progress upgrading sewage treatment plants throughout the Seacoast in towns like Newmarket and Exeter , stormwater runoff remains one of our greatest challenges.

Last week, CLF took an important step in tackling a major source of stormwater pollution for our estuary – Pease International Tradeport, located in Portsmouth and Newington.

Spanning 3,000 acres in Portsmouth and Newington, and now boasting more than 4 million square feet of development, Pease Tradeport generates runoff containing a witch’s brew of pollutants from streets and parking lots – heavy metals, nutrients, bacteria, and hydrocarbons, to name a few.  Add to that long list a troubling pollutant from Pease’s former days as an Air Force base – the toxic chemicals PFOS and PFOA.  Toxic contaminants of growing concern, particularly for developing fetuses and newborns (see here and here), these chemicals have resulted in the closure of a Portsmouth drinking water well at Pease, as well as drinking water contamination elsewhere in the state.

One would hope and expect Pease Tradeport to be in full compliance with environmental laws like the Clean Water Act. Unfortunately, it’s not, and our water and communities are paying a price.

That’s why – last week – CLF notified the Pease Development Authority of its intent to sue under two important environmental laws: the Clean Water Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The notices (which can be viewed here and here, and which are required before a lawsuit is filed), address Pease Development Authority’s failure to comply with the Clean Water Act’s program regulating stormwater discharges from storm sewer systems, and its failure to properly manage toxic PFOS and PFOA.

With communities on the Seacoast investing in clean water (see here and here) and working to comply with the Clean Water Act’s stormwater requirements, it’s troubling that a quasi-governmental body like Pease – no less one that has encouraged substantial development on property with a history of pollution problems – is not complying with some of our nation’s most important environmental laws. CLF is working to change that, to ensure a healthier Great Bay and healthier communities, now and for future generations.

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