November 1, 2018 (CONCORD, NH)– Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), joined by local residents, announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department for Clean Water Act violations. The suit alleges that pollution from the agency’s Powder Mill State Fish Hatchery is causing cyanobacteria outbreaks in the Merrymeeting River, posing a serious public health risk.
“The state’s Powder Mill hatchery is endangering public health by illegally polluting the iconic Merrymeeting River,” said Tom Irwin, Director of CLF New Hampshire. “Residents and visitors flock to New Hampshire’s rivers and lakes every summer to swim and boat, not to be told to stay out of the water, and certainly not to be sickened by toxic cyanobacteria outbreaks. Protecting public health must be the primary concern among our state leaders, and they must put a stop to the pollution coming from this facility.”
The Powder Mill State Fish Hatchery is the state’s largest, and it 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 pollution from fish and food waste, causing dangerous algae blooms and other water quality problems. Portions of the Merrymeeting River, as well as Alton Bay, have been identified by the state as impaired because of cyanobacteria.
“Over the past three years I have seen the rapid decline of water quality on the Merrymeeting River,” said Fred Quimby, retired Professor of Environmental Toxicology at Cornell University. “My family and I have personally witnessed huge green algae blooms which prevent people from swimming and create a foul scum on the water. The state’s fish hatchery is the primary source of this toxic pollution, and our leaders must take this issue seriously and stop polluting our beautiful river.”
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 issued two warnings advising lake users to avoid contact with sections of the Merrymeeting River with elevated cyanobacteria counts, such as in areas with surface scum or green streaks. It also advised pet owners to keep their pets out of such waters.
Click here for a copy of the lawsuit.
CLF experts are available for further comment.