The Surfrider Foundation has consolidated all of our issue-based blogs into one Coastal Blog. Come check it out at www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Friday, March 25, 2011
Millions of disks, tons of raw sewage spilled from Hooksett plant
By DAN O'BRIEN
Union Leader Correspondent
Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2011
HOOKSETT – The number of small, plastic disks that escaped from the Hooksett Wastewater Treatment Plant is much higher than previously thought, according to local and state officials.
Between 4 million and 8 million disks spilled out of an overflowing tank, along with about 300,000 gallons of raw sewage, and into the Merrimack River on March 6.
It was originally thought the number of escaped disks was in the hundreds of thousands.
Officials did not realize the severity of the problem until five days after the spill when disks were discovered along the Merrimack River shoreline between Hooksett and Newburyport, Mass., where some beaches were closed.
The state Department of Environmental Services said the disks do not pose a health risk and the vast majority of disks did not test positive for harmful bacteria.
The disks, officially known as Biolfilm Chip M Media, are not much larger than the size of a quarter. They were introduced to the plant last November in a ceremony that included Gov. John Lynch and touted as a new sewage treatment method that reduced the number of aeration tanks that needed to be built, saving the town $1 million.
Hooksett is potentially facing a penalty of $25,000 per violation, per day, according to Assistant Attorney General Allen Brooks, chief of the Attorney General Office's Environmental Protection Bureau.
State and local officials confirmed the Hooksett plant had not installed an alarm system on the sewage tanks that would have alerted workers to an overflow until the day after the spill.Investigators are still determining if a fine will be issued.
"Everything they did will be considered," Brooks said.
DES is trying to recruit volunteers to help clean up the disks along beaches in New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
The New Hampshire Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation is hosting emergency clean-ups at area beaches to remove a rash of washed up disks that are used to remove bacteria from wastewater. More info below. This incident is similar to a beach pollution issue that Surfrider Europe investigated during 2010. Surfrider Europe Investigates Plastic Debris on Atlantic Beaches.
Volunteers sought to remove contaminated disks from beaches
By Chelsey Shuman
HAMPTON — The Blue Ocean Society and New Hampshire Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation will host emergency beach cleanups at three locations in response to the accidental discharge of bacteria-laden disks that escaped from the Hooksett Wastewater Treatment Plant last week and washed up on area beaches.
The cleanups were initially scheduled for today but have been rescheduled to Thursday, March 17, from noon to 5 p.m. Volunteers are asked to gather at the North Hampton State Beach parking lot at 295 Ocean Blvd., the parking lot in front of the Ashworth by the Sea Hotel in Hampton and the parking lot next to the Yankee Fisherman's Cooperative in Seabrook. Volunteers will be provided gloves and trash bags to help remove the disks. Officials from both organizations and the state Department of Environmental Services will be on hand to help.
The disks were used at the Hooksett plant to help soak up and consume bacteria in wastewater. On Monday, crews from the Strafford County Department of Corrections removed thousands of disks, but officials say there are many more to be collected. The disks led officials to temporarily close Seabrook Beach.
DES officials on Monday declared the disks tested negative for both E. coli and Enterococci. "We tested for these types of bacteria because they are what are typically involved in water contamination," James Martin, DES public information officer, said Tuesday.
DES testing of the disks over the weekend came back positive for E. coli, but Martin said the tests showed a very low level of contamination. "What we found was equivalent to the level of bacteria you encounter on a doorknob every day," he said. "Because of this low number, it is important for people not to panic and understand everything is being done in our power to take care of this."
While the most recent tests came back negative, Martin is encouraging folks not to touch the disks with their bare hands. "Even if you use gloves, please be careful and wash your hands afterwards or use a disinfectant," he said.For information, visit www.meetup.com/Surfrider-Foundation-New-Hampshire-Chapter/events/16928227/
Volunteer beach cleanup
Hosts: Department of Environmental Services and the Blue Ocean Society
When: Noon-5 p.m. Thursday, March 17
Where: North Hampton, Hampton, Seabrook beaches
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
They have just started on a new venture with a researcher from the University of South Florida to start monitoring the beaches for evidence of oil contamination in the sand. Read more below.
Surfriders team up with researchers as DEP resumes testing for oil, dispersants
Emerald Coast Surfrider Foundation has joined with University of South Florida researcher Rip Kirby in its quest for answers on the conditions of area beaches.
“Surfrider will be joining his team and assisting with his sampling effort,” chairman Michael Sturdivant said at the organization’s February chapter meeting, where he introduced the coastal geologist.
The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enhancement of the world's waves and beaches.
Following an announcement from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in regards to its stepping up its water testing, the foundation plans to switch much of its testing energies to soil sampling.
“Hopefully we will show the beaches are clean,” Sturdivant said.
The testing is important for the protection of community health and trust, Sturdivant said.
At the meeting, Kirby brought in the “latest and greatest” in fluorescent light technology to show how crude oil that has come into contact with dispersants will glow bright orange when illuminated.
“If the isotopic signature fluoresces in orange and gold, it has Corexit,” Kirby said.
Kirby predicts oil will be impacting the beaches in some form for the next three to five years.
“With our warmer temperatures, we are hoping the bugs will break it down faster,” Kirby said. But his fear is “oil coming onto our beaches by an offshore wave event.”related article.....
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is once again testing Panhandle beaches.
The last time FDEP conducted tests were Aug. 16.
FDEP “is initiating weekly beach monitoring for polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and DOSS (an ingredient in the dispersant corexit) in water samples in preparation for this year’s swim season," according to an e-mail from the DEP’s Dave Whiting, biology program administrator.
The e-mail, which was provided to The Sun by the local Surfrider Foundation, said “our sampling is being used to help the Department of Health craft protective public health messages or notices.”
It went on to say, “We will be collecting tarballs and sand (from both visibly clean and visibly stained) portions of beaches to determine how the weathering of the oil may have affected its composition, people’s ability to detect it on the beach and their potential for unacceptable exposure.”
The department will also be performing targeted beach sand sampling in "areas of special concern."
The DOH will be in charge of issuing any public health messages in relation to the testing.
“We are hopeful that the public health message will remain the same,” Whiting continued. “Beachgoers should not recreate in areas with oil product too numerous to avoid. By avoiding visible oil, it is unlikely that you will be exposed to unsafe levels of petroleum."
Thursday, February 10, 2011
With the help of an online petition and some local media attention, Scott and a group of other like-minded individuals dubbed the Sludge Stoppers, finally succeeded into shaming and embarassing the Nassau County Executive, who is ultimately responsible for this County-run facility, into finally beginning to take some corrective steps to fix what seems like a comedy of errors at the poorly run and neglected sewage treatment plant, something the hollow threats of fines from the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation were unable to accomplish.
Scott, the Sludge Stoppers, and other concerned citizens are now keeping a close eye on the County and the plant to make sure the dumping stops and the County follows through on their promises to change the management, fix broken equipment and upgrade the facility and its operations. The energy that was created by Scott's presentation at the Surfrider meeting bred a new citizen task force that will help monitor the plant's activities and push the County to take even more steps to protect the health of its local waterways and citizens, including faster water testing, timely and online posting of water quality data, and public notification of future sewage discharges to protect the people that fish, swim, and otherwise recreate in these waters.
Scott's speech really illustrated the power of one passionate person armed with a video camera and access to the internet to bring on change in the face of long-standing government neglect and abuse.
For more media coverage of this issue check out:
Activists want Bay Park sewage discharges to stop
Monday, February 7, 2011
The December 2010 rains in California brought the expected stormwater runoff and pollution to area beaches. The students of Santa Monica High School’s Teach and Test Ocean Water Quality Monitoring Program recorded high bacteria levels in their beach water samples and did their best to get the word out. They put together the below press release as well as continued to post their results using the "Safe to Surf" water quality boards they have posted at nearly a dozen local surf shops and other businesses. These students are doing a great job at keeping people talking about beach water pollution issues and raising the visibility of their water testing program in the local community.
December 23, 2010L
Swim at Your Own Risk!
By Zack Gold
Co-president, Heal the Bay Surfrider Club
Santa Monica High School 601 Pico Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90405
Student Contact: Zachary Gold
Teacher Contact: Benjamin Kay
Three hours ago, student members of Santa Monica High School’s Teach and Test Ocean Water Quality Monitoring Program, sponsored by Surfrider Foundation, removed ocean samples from their classroom incubator to discover super high fecal bacteria levels at all three of their Santa Monica sites: Pico-Kenter and Santa Monica Pier storm drains as well as Lifeguard Station 26. Students collected the samples 24 hours earlier on Wednesday to determine the level of Enterococcus bacteria, a bacteria found in human and mammal feces, and one used as an indicator of ocean health and human risk by Los Angeles County.
The mean values of Enterococcus bacteria for Lifeguard Station 26, Pico-Kenter, and Santa Monica Pier ocean sites were 1193, 1414, and 2240 colony forming units per 100 mL, respectively. The state’s acceptable levels for Enterococcus colony forming units is 104. Thus, student data show the water quality is over 10 times worse than the state’s acceptable level, indicating very polluted water quality and an increased risk to beachgoers.
Zack Gold, co-president of the Heal the Bay Surfrider Club and student leader of the Teach and Test program explained, “The water quality results for bacteria from this week’s sampling were absolutely appalling. We should never have fecal indicator bacteria levels 10 times higher than the state's acceptable level. We know for sure that the chances of getting sick increase greatly when it rains, yet I saw lots of surfers at Lifeguard Station 26 and at Pico Kenter storm drain in the disgusting water. The trend in our data is pretty clear – about 10 months of good water quality during the dry season followed by spikes of Enterococcus in the wet season and with this heavy rain we definitely got a spike."
Teach and Test students inform over 10 local surf shops and other businesses about their results on a weekly basis. Stores then post the results using their “safe to surf?” water quality boards that the students helped make and distribute with Surfrider Foundation.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Heavy rains in Southern California caused havoc at the end of 2010. Many cities saw their wastewater infrastructure become overwhelmed by the high volumes of water and fail, discharging raw sewage and polluted run-off at area beaches. Our own, Rick Wilson, speaks about the issue on Southern California Public Radio. Download audio here.
The Surfrider Foundation supported a House bill last year that would have provided an independent funding source to fix our nation's water infrastructure problems and help prevent beach pollution. Learn more at the Know Your H2O blog.
When it rains in SoCal, is it a given that our beaches are awash in sewage?
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images
It happens so regularly during the winter months that it’s largely accepted as standard practice: when it rains, Southern California’s beaches are inundated with raw sewage and other toxic runoff from an inundated sewer system that cannot handle large volumes of water. After one of the wettest Decembers on record, beaches in San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles and Ventura counties have been closed to the public for weeks because of repeated sewage spills and, with more rain on the way before the new year, beaches won’t be suitable for people anytime soon. Are the sewage systems in the area so antiquated and the region in general so ill prepared for big storms, that raw sewage on our beaches is just an accepted part of doing business in Southern California? How bad is the problem and what kind of resources would it take to update our storm runoff capabilities?
Rick Wilson, coastal management coordinator for the Surfriders Foundation
- Overwhelmed sewer systems take toll on beaches
- American Society of Civil Engineers: Report Card for America's Infrastructure - Wastewater