Septic tanks and nitrogen pollution in the Great Bay Estuary

June 28, 2011

On Wednesday, June 29, 2011, Bambi Miller of the Strafford County Conservation District and Tom Canfield of Septic Design and Installations will host a “How to Make Your Septic System Last Forever!” workshop for septic system owners at the Lee Safety Complex, located at 20 George Bennet Road in Lee, NH. The event kicks off at 7:00 PM.

The 2009 State of the Estuaries Report identifies faulty septic tanks as a source of fecal coliform bacteria and nitrogen pollution in the Great Bay Estuary.

Event sponsored by the Lamprey River Advisory Committee and Lee Conservation Service. For more information, contact Bambi Miller at (603) 749-3037 or


Excessive nitrogen harms the economy and environment (Video)

April 18, 2011

The problem of nitrogen pollution is not limited to New Hampshire’s Great Bay Estuary. “Nitrogen is one of the biggest challenges of the 21st Century,” according to this new video summarizing the findings of the European Nitrogen Assessment.

Excessive nitrogen harms the economy and environment – Press Release:

A major new study finds that nitrogen pollution is costing each person in Europe around £130 – £650 (€150 – €740 Euros) a year. The first European Nitrogen Assessment (ENA) will be launched at a conference in Edinburgh, Scotland on Monday 11 April.

The study, carried out by 200 experts from 21 countries and 89 organizations, estimates that the annual cost of damage caused by nitrogen across Europe is £60 – £280 billion (€70 -320 billion), more than double the extra income gained from using nitrogen fertilizers in European agriculture.

Professor Bob Watson, Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), welcomed the report. He said, “The assessment emphasizes how nitrogen links the different environmental issues that we have come to know so well: climate, biodiversity, air, water, and soil pollution.  It develops the vision for a more holistic approach, which is vital if we are to make progress in tackling these issues.”

The ENA is the first time that the multiple threats of nitrogen pollution, including contributions to climate change and biodiversity loss, have been valued in economic terms at a continental scale.  As well as identifying key threats the assessment also identifies the geographical areas at greatest risk of damage by nitrogen pollution.  The report provides EU policymakers with a comprehensive scientific assessment on the consequences of failing to address the problem of nitrogen pollution – and outlines key actions that can be taken to reduce the problem to protect environmental and public health.

Key messages from the assessment include:

– At least ten million people in Europe are potentially exposed to drinking water with nitrate concentrations above recommended levels.

– Nitrates cause toxic algal blooms and dead zones in the sea, especially in the North, Adriatic and Baltic seas and along the coast of Brittany.

– Nitrogen-based air pollution from agriculture, industry and traffic in urban areas contributes to particulate matter air pollution, which is reducing life expectancy by several months across much of central Europe.

– In the forests atmospheric nitrogen deposition has caused at least 10% loss of plant diversity over two-thirds of Europe.

The lead editor of the ENA, Dr Mark Sutton from the UK’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said, “Nearly half the world’s population depends on synthetic, nitrogen-based fertilizer for food but measures are needed to reduce the impacts of nitrogen pollution. Solutions include more efficient use of fertilizers and manures, and people choosing to eat less meat. We have the know-how to reduce nitrogen pollution, but what we need now is to apply these solutions throughout Europe in an integrated way.”

Dr Hans van Grinsven, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) and lead author of the ENA cost-benefit analysis on nitrogen in the environment, said, “The present environmental costs of nitrogen for Europe are very high. Our analysis shows that the financial benefits resulting from abatement of nitrogen problems will outweigh the costs of many of the available measures.  We conclude that this will be true also for agriculture, even taking into account the benefits of nitrogen fertilizer for farm income and food production.”

The ENA is being launched at start of the week-long ‘Nitrogen and Global Change‘ conference in Edinburgh.  The Assessment was conducted through a network of projects supported by the European Commission and the European Science Foundation, and reports to the ‘Air Convention’ of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

To accompany the ENA launch a commentary by Dr Mark Sutton will be published in Nature on April 11 outlining why curbing nitrogen emissions is a central environmental challenge for the twenty-first century.

Notes to Editors

Further information for journalists can be obtained from the CEH press office.

The ENA will be formally launched on 11 April, the first day of the Nitrogen and Global Change 2011 conference being held at the EICC in Edinburgh (11 to 15 April 2011). The launch will start with a keynote speech by Professor Bob Watson, the Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. More details of timings and location are available in the conference programme:  (page 3).

The European Nitrogen Assessment is being published by Cambridge University Press. More details

The 4 minute long official launch video can be watched on Youtube.

The assessment deals with ‘reactive nitrogen’ which includes ammonia, nitrous oxide (laughing gas), nitrogen oxides (NOx) which form acid rain and smog, and nitrates,  as distinct from the ‘inert nitrogen’ which makes up 78% of the earth’s atmosphere.

The European Nitrogen Assessment has been prepared through coordinated action led by the Nitrogen in Europe (NinE) Research Networking Programme of the European Science Foundation, the NitroEurope Integrated Project supported by European Commission’s 6th Framework Programme, and the COST Action 729.

The Assessment is a contribution to the work of the Task Force on Reactive Nitrogen (TFRN), led by the UK and the Netherlands, in support of the long-term goals of the UN-ECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP). In parallel, the Assessment represents a European contribution to the work of the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI), a joint project of the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE), providing evidence to underpin many United Nations and other multi-lateral agreements.

The ENA has been conducted as a scientifically independent process. The views and conclusions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect policies of the contributing organizations.

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Rain Barrel Workshop in Exeter, NH

April 13, 2011

Exeter, NH – The New Hampshire Coastal Protection Partnership and ReVision Energy are teaming up to offer a low cost rain barrel workshop to seacoast residents on May 7th. Come “Make your own rain barrel” for just $50 and enjoy free water all spring and summer long! The fun kicks off at 10 AM at ReVision Energy’s new store on Commercial Drive in Exeter.

“We’re excited about partnering with NH Coast and about welcoming people to our new solar showroom,” says ReVision Energy branch manager Dan Clapp. “We love being able to offer a hands-on event where people can learn about water conservation, which, like solar, is a way to help the environment and reduce energy costs at the same time.”

A member of the Green Alliance, ReVision Energy has completed more than 2,500 solar installations in Maine and New Hampshire, including commercial solar hot water systems for apartment buildings, restaurants, inns, and fitness centers. Water heating can account for 14%-25% of home energy consumption, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Solar hot water systems capture the power of the sun and use it to heat water, reducing household reliance on fossil fuels.

“Nationwide, about 4% of U.S. power generation is used for water supply and treatment,” notes Dave Anderson, Project Coordinator for NH Coast. That’s where rain barrels come in.

“Rain barrels are a zero energy source of free non-potable water,” Anderson explains. “I use my rain barrel to do everything from watering the garden to filling a bucket to wash windows.”

Lawns and gardens can soak up around 40% water used by a household during the summer months, creating a real strain on municipal water supplies. Rain barrels provide an eco-friendly alternative to water drawn from local reservoirs. The green benefits don’t stop there.

“Installing a rain barrel is one way to take a slice out of your stormwater footprint, especially if set up the overflow outlet to drain into a dry well or rain garden” Anderson explains. Stormwater runoff can quickly transform into runoff pollution, carrying everything from leaked motor oil to nitrogen from dog poop into local waterways like the Exeter River – a major tributary to the Great Bay Estuary.

NH Coast launched its popular Rain Barrel Program last year with the help of a small grant from the Lamprey River Advisory Committee. Anderson visited local farmers’ markets in Newmarket and Nottingham, giving away free rain barrels and teaching market goers how to build their own at home. NH Coast staff and volunteers make each rain barrel by hand from a recycled food grade plastic drum.

The program has proved to be a big hit. “We’ve received a ton of support from local businesses this year,” Anderson is happy to report. Altus Energy, D.F. Richard Energy, Greenovations, and  Ecomovement Hauling and Consulting sponsored the local nonprofit’s latest round of free rain barrel giveaways at the Seacoast Home and Garden Show in Durham last month. A $1,000 grant from the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund will also ensure that the program gets off to a great start in 2011.

In addition to hosting the May 7th workshop, ReVision Energy is sponsoring the event. The first ten participants who sign up for the workshop online will go home with a free rain barrel. To RSVP, visit or call Dave at (603) 617-0679.

NH Coast board member Joe Persechino builds a rain barrel at the Newmarket Farmers' Market.

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YouTube Video: Why you should scoop dog poop

February 25, 2011

The Blue Ocean Society has teamed up with Ryan Cultrera and Small Town Pictures to produce “Beach Karma”, a hilarious YouTube urging dog walkers to scoop up their pet’s poop:

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Upcoming Great Bay Steward Events

February 23, 2011

Want to learn more about the Great Bay Estuary? Great Bay Stewards has posted their latest  Events and Opportunities online! Upcoming events include Syrup on Snow, a great chance for kids to get outside and learn how to tap maple trees for syrup.

2011 New Hampshire Water and Watershed Conference

February 22, 2011

It’s time to register for 2011 New Hampshire Water and Watershed Conference! This year’s theme: From Our Headwaters to the Sea – Living in a Changing Water World.


Friday and Saturday, March 25-26, 2011

8:00 am – 3:30 pm


Plymouth State University Hartman Union Building

Plymouth, NH

About the Event

The organizing committees of the annual New Hampshire Water Conference and the New Hampshire Watershed Conference are once again offering a single, comprehensive event for 2011. The purpose of the merger is to combine talent, resources, and audiences from both events into a unique, two-day event designed to meet the information and networking needs of lake, river, and watershed groups; environmental organization; volunteer monitors; municipal board and staff members; elected officials; local and regional planners; policy makers; scientists; educators; consultants and students.

For additional information and to register please visit Plymouth State University’s Center for the Environment website at:

Conference Objectives

Conference participants will enhance their capacity to understand, protect, and manage New Hampshire’s water resources by:

1.   Learning about ground-breaking research and its application.

2.   Receiving latest updates on water related policies and agency programs.

3.   Gaining knowledge about effective water education and outreach.

4.   Participating in training sessions to improve organizational skills and functioning. m

5.   Sharing understanding, concerns, accomplishments, skills and perspectives with others.

6.   Contributing to state-wide planning efforts for New Hampshire’s water future.

Conference Agenda with Session Descriptions

Cost to Attend

  • $40 – Friday, March 25, 2011 or Saturday, March 26, 2011
  • $70 – Both Friday & Saturday, March 25 & 26, 2011
  • $25 – Student Rate – Friday, March 25, 2011 or Saturday, March 26, 2011

Space is limited! Register today!

For more information contact Jacquie Colburn, Lakes Coordinator, DES Lakes Program at (603) 271-2959 or via e-mail

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HB 519: RGGI Repeal Bill Hearing Thursday

February 8, 2011

With the Science, Technology and Energy Committee of the NH House of Representatives set to hold hearings on HB 519 on Thursday, it’s time to revisit the issue of climate change in the context of the Great Bay Estuary watershed. The bill in question is aimed at “repealing New Hampshire’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative cap and trade program for controlling carbon dioxide emissions.”

Rather than reinvent the wheel, the reader is advised to consult the following op-ed piece by researchers at the University of New Hampshire’s Jackson Estuarine Laboratory for a nice summary of the environmental impacts of climate change on the Great Bay Estuary:

Scientists concerned for bay’s health – Seacoast Online, 8/25/2010

“More frequent weather extremes, including the recent record rainfalls and the general trend of warmer winters, are negatively impacting the estuary and its resources,” they note.

But more frequent extreme weather events don’t just pose a threat to the ecological health of the Great Bay Estuary. They also pose a real threat to local communities. According to one report, Southern New Hampshire experienced 100-year floods in 2005, 2006, and 2007. In 2006 alone, FEMA dolled out more than $7.3 million to help New Hampshire residents who suffered flood-related losses. Newmarket was particularly hard hit, as evidenced by photos posted on the website of the Lamprey River Watershed Association.

The New Hampshire Climate Action Plan warns of more frequent and extreme weather events damaging property and threatening public safety. It is time to take the threat of climate change serious. We can’t afford to “wait and see” any longer.

Anyone can testify at Thursday’s hearing on HB 519. The hearing begins at 10 AM in Representatives Hall, located inside the State House in Concord.

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Blue Ocean Society Winter Social Thursday

February 8, 2011

The Blue Ocean Society will host its Winter Social at the Press Room in Portsmouth on Thursday, February 10. Come enjoy a pint while learning more about the SCOOP campaign, profiled here last October. Event kicks off at 5:30 PM. Sign up to attend on Facebook today!

Warmer weather have you thinking about a nice walk on the beach? Why not pick up some trash as you stroll? The Blue Ocean Society has beach clean ups running all year long. Visit their website for more information.

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Legislative Update: HB 149 Lamprey River Nomination

January 27, 2011

On Tuesday, January 25th, the Resources, Recreation and Development Committee of the New Hampshire House of Representatives heard testimony on HB 149: designating segments of the Lamprey, North Branch, Pawtuckaway, North, Little, and Piscassic Rivers as protected rivers. The hearing marked a critical step in the process of nominating the Lamprey River and its tributaries to the New Hampshire Rivers Management and Protection Program. Testimony was unanimously in support of the bill, which was sent to subcommittee at the end of the hearing.

Passage of HB 149 would lead to the creation of a Local Management Advisory Committee made up of locally nominated and state appointed representatives from each of the towns located in the Lamprey River watershed. With technical support from state agencies, communities will have the opportunity to work together to develop the kind of watershed wide approach to river management that is needed to address critical issues like nitrogen pollution and flooding.

The Lamprey River is the largest tributary to the Great Bay Estuary.

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New Hampshire Senate Bill 19

January 17, 2011

Last week, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee of the New Hampshire Senate heard testimony on SB 19, a bill designed to modify the definition of “prime wetland” under RSA 482-A:15. Importantly, the bill would reserve “prime wetland” designation – and the protections that go with it – for wetlands of “5 acres or more” in size. Opponents of the bill cautioned against using size as a criteria for evaluating the significance of wetlands, noting that smaller wetlands can perform the same functions as larger ones.

If this change in definition were to be made retroactive, areas now designated as prime wetlands could lose their protected status. Barrington, Brentwood, Exeter, Hampton Falls, Newington, Newmarket, and Northwood have all designated “prime wetlands” using the current definition of the term. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services currently regulates all development within 100 feet of a prime wetland.

The need for wetland protection is nicely summarized by the purpose statement of RSA 482-A:

It is found to be for the public good and welfare of this state to protect and preserve its submerged lands under tidal and fresh waters and its wetlands, (both salt water and fresh-water), as herein defined, from despoliation and unregulated alteration, because such despoliation or unregulated alteration will adversely affect the value of such areas as sources of nutrients for finfish, crustacea, shellfish and wildlife of significant value, will damage or destroy habitats and reproduction areas for plants, fish and wildlife of importance, will eliminate, depreciate or obstruct the commerce, recreation and aesthetic enjoyment of the public, will be detrimental to adequate groundwater levels, will adversely affect stream channels and their ability to handle the runoff of waters, will disturb and reduce the natural ability of wetlands to absorb flood waters and silt, thus increasing general flood damage and the silting of open water channels, and will otherwise adversely affect the interests of the general public.

Contact Senator Bob Odell (R-Lempster), the sponsor of SB 19

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