Friday, March 25, 2011

More on Sewage Spill in NH

Millions of disks, tons of raw sewage spilled from Hooksett plant

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

Emergency Beach Clean-ups in NH to Remove Wastewater Treatment Disks

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.

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

To help

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

Details: Visit or