Progress for Great Bay: Exeter Agrees to Major Pollution Reductions

Peter Wellenberger

Algae Growth in the Winnicut River, Greenland, NH; photo by Peter W.

In early January, the Town of Exeter’s Selectmen voted 5 to 0 not to appeal a permit issued by the EPA – a permit that will require a major upgrade of its sewage treatment plant. Exeter becomes the second Great Bay community to accept stringent reductions in nitrogen pollution from a sewage treatment plant, following in the footsteps of Newmarket which announced in December they would not appeal a similar permit.

Together, Exeter and Newmarket have taken an important first step toward tackling the issue of nitrogen pollution – a problem that is contributing to a decline in the health of the estuary. Sewage treatment plants are a major source of nitrogen pollution, especially dissolved inorganic nitrogen – the form of nitrogen of greatest concern. According to the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership (PREP) State of Our Estuaries 2013 report, there has been a 68% average increase in this troubling form of nitrogen between 1974 and 2011. You can read PREP’s entire 2013 report here.

The most effective method for reducing nitrogen inputs to the estuary is by upgrading aging and outdated sewage treatment plants. Like Newmarket, Exeter will now begin the process of constructing a new plant that will lead to a significant reduction in nitrogen levels. You can read about Exeter’s plans here.

Unfortunately, officials from Dover and Rochester have decided it is not in their best interest for others to invest in new infrastructure designed to reduce nitrogen pollution. On December 14, they filed an appeal of Newmarket’s permit. That’s right: Dover and Rochester are appealing a permit issued to Newmarket – a permit with no bearing on their respective communities. As discussed in an op-ed written by me and other members of the Rescue Great Bay coalition, this latest legal maneuver is part of an ongoing campaign to derail needed efforts to protect the estuary. It’s time for Dover and Rochester to step aside and let communities solve the problems facing Great Bay.

In this regard, you can help the Great Bay estuary by taking action now: follow this link to urge the mayors of Rochester and Dover to drop their appeal of Newmarket’s permit and let us get on with the business of protecting our waters.

We commend Exeter and Newmarket for their actions to protect our Great Bay waters, and we urge Dover and Rochester to get out of the way and allow other communities to get on with the business of cleaning up the estuary.

For more information about the Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper and my work to protect the Great Bay estuary, visit: You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter.




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