New Hampshire Fish Hatchery Pollutes Iconic Waterways Causing Public Health Risks

CLF Announces Lawsuit Against Fish and Game Department

Along the Merrymeeting River. Photo: Fred William Quimby

August 2, 2018 (CONCORD, NH)– Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), joined by local residents, announced at a press conference in New Durham today that it has sent notice to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department stating its intent to file a lawsuit against the agency for Clean Water Act violations. The notice alleges that pollution from the agency’s Powder Mill State Fish Hatchery is causing cyanobacteria outbreaks in the Merrymeeting River that pose a serious public health risk.

“It’s unthinkable what this State facility has done to the Merrymeeting River, degrading its health and putting the public’s health at risk with cyanobacteria outbreaks,” said Tom Irwin, Director of CLF New Hampshire. “During the heart of the summer, people want to swim, boat, and enjoy New Hampshire’s rivers and lakes. They don’t want to be told ‘stay out.’ It’s time for our leaders to protect the public health and the health of our waters by putting an end to illegal pollution from this facility.”

The Powder Mill State Fish Hatchery, the state’s largest hatchery, discharges wastewater into the Merrymeeting River, which flows downstream into Lake Winnipesaukee’s Alton Bay. The hatchery raises fish to be stocked in other New Hampshire waters to support recreational fishing. In the process, it discharges significant phosphorus (from fish food and waste) and other pollution, causing dangerous cyanobacteria blooms and other water quality problems.

“Over the past three years I have seen the Merrymeeting River degrade rapidly. I have personally witnessed massive increases in green algae, which hinders swimming and creates a foul scum on the water,” said Fred Quimby, retired Professor of Environmental Toxicology, Cornell University. “The primary source of this pollution is the Powder Mill State Fish Hatchery. We must and can stop this dangerous pollution at the source.”

In addition to skin rashes and short-term illness, there is a growing correlation between cyanobacteria blooms and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). This summer, the Department of Environmental Services has already issued two warnings about cyanobacteria outbreaks on the Merrymeeting River, advising lake users to avoid contact with water experiencing elevated cyanobacteria counts, such as in areas with a surface scum or green streaks.  It also advises pet owners to keep their pets out of such waters.  Portions of the Merrymeeting River, as well as Lake Winnipesaukee’s Alton Bay downstream, have been identified by the State as impaired as a result of cyanobacteria.

“For 28 years after purchasing our property in 1987, our home was a wonderful place for family and friends to gather and enjoy the Merrymeeting River,” said New Durham resident Arthur Hoover. “In recent years, however, we have witnessed a troubling decline in the river’s water quality, including cyanobacteria problems that have greatly interfered with our enjoyment of the river and even resulted in a family member experiencing a rash after coming into contact with green algae in the river. It’s unacceptable that the Powder Mill fish hatchery has created these conditions, and it’s time they finally be addressed.”

Click here for copy of the notice letter.

CLF experts are available for further comment.