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Battling for cleaner wastewater.

Discharging into the Piscataqua River an average of 4.5 million gallons of waste water per day, Portsmouth's Pierce Island wastewater treatment plant remains woefully behind the times. Using an obscure, little-used waiver provision under the federal Clean Water Act, the plant is one of a handful across the country operating with only primary--as opposed to more stringent secondary--levels of treatment. The plant's permit expired 15 years ago, and it has been operating with these less stringent controls since 1985.

Finally seeking a new federal discharge permit, the City has asked the Environmental Protection Agency's permission to continue without secondary treatment, and instead to extend its outfall farther into the river with a number of diffusers. Recognizing that "dilution" is not the solution, CLF is urging EPA to deny the City's request and to force the plant to install stricter, more protective treatment technologies.

Installing improved treatment technologies is essential to protecting the health of the Piscataqua River--a tidal river connecting the Gulf of Maine and New Hampshire's Great Bay. A hearing conducted by EPA, at the urging of CLF, drew a standing-room-only crowd at which not a single person spoke in favor of the City's plan. Recently, the plant earned the dishonorable distinction of receiving a "Dirty Dozen" award from the Toxics Action Center.

Currently, EPA is weighing whether to grant the City's request to continue operations with only primary treatment. Should EPA grant the City's request, CLF stands ready to appeal.
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Title Annotation:New Hampshire
Publication:Conservation Matters
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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