Last week I visited Newmarket to see first-hand the progress being made on the town’s new sewage treatment plant. In 2013, the town’s citizens voted to bond the cost of a new plant that would adhere to EPA permit requirements that – for the first time – will result in dramatic reductions in nitrogen pollution. The results of these decisions are beginning to come to fruition as the buildings and equipment of the future plant take shape.
Newmarket is one of several towns whose wastewater discharges into the Great Bay estuary, where nitrogen and other pollutants have had a major impact on the ecosystem. Too much nitrogen is leading to the loss of eelgrass – a submerged seagrass that serves as the ecological cornerstone of the estuary – as well as a greater presence of algae.
Newmarket’s Water and Wastewater Superintendent Sean Greig, who has been instrumental in the planning, design, and construction of the new wastewater treatment plant, led the tour. He spoke enthusiastically about the variety of ways he was able to save the town money and improve the facility by using innovative techniques and repurposing buildings used in the old plant. In addition to meeting current needs, the new plant has been designed to handle Newmarket’s expected growth and future demand for the next 20 years.
Once operational, the Newmarket facility will reduce nitrogen concentrations from their current range of 30 to 40 milligrams per liter, to 8 milligrams per liter, with the capability of achieving a level as low as 3. This will translate into dramatic reductions in pollution and cleaner water in the Lamprey River and Great Bay.
According to Greig, the project is both on time and on budget, with the expectation that it will come on line in April 2017 and become fully operational by May 31, 2017. The progress that is being made in Newmarket is very encouraging and means that we’re an important step closer to a healthy Great Bay estuary.