Feb. 21, 2014
Four leading experts have just completed an independent, scientific peer review of the document entitled "Numeric Nutrient Criteria of the Great Bay Estuary" dated June, 2009 prepared by the NH Department of Environmental Services. The "Joint Report of Peer Review Panel" can be found be clicking here. For more information on the origins of this report see Recent Collaborative Efforts under the Regional page of this website.
The City of Portsmouth Works to Address EPA Wastewater Mandates
The City of Portsmouth owns and operates two wastewater treatment facilities (WWTF) that must comply with separate National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits.
These permits, issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with concurrence of the NH Department of Environmental Services (NH DES), define how much the City has to treat the wastewater before it can be discharged to the Piscataqua River. The WWTFs are located at Pease International Tradeport and Peirce Island. The Pease facility was constructed in the 1950's as part of the construction of the Pease Air Force Base. The Peirce Island facility was built in the early 1960's. Both facilities have had upgrades throughout the years.
The City and its Department of Public Works (DPW) Sewer Division are working to improve the City’s wastewater system to meet the EPA’s wastewater compliance requirements. The City is currently under a legal order (Consent Decree) from the EPA to upgrade the Peirce Island WWTF to secondary treatment. The upgrade project will be the single largest capital expense for the sewer system to date. The City was recently notified by EPA that the Peirce Island secondary treatment permit would be made more stringent by requiring nitrogen removal to 8 milligrams per liter (mg/L). Unrelated to the order, the City anticipates the draft permit for the Pease WWTF will also be more stringent and will result in another significant WWTF upgrade.
What does this mean to Portsmouth Sewer Ratepayers?
Sewer Use Rates
Your sewer rates will increase. During the process of planning for the necessary upgrades to our wastewater system, estimates projected that sewer rates may double in the next five years. The City urges ratepayers to be involved in decisions that affect your quality of life. Recent updated analysis shows that the rate impact may not be as much as previously anticipated, however, further investment in sewer upgrades beyond the Peirce Island facility are also anticipated to have significant costs associated with them.
The City undertook a comprehensive rate analysis in 2013 and anticipates another update in early 2014. This information will be brought forward to City Council and the general public, and our customers will have an opportunity to participate.
What We Are Doing Beyond This Upgrade
The City continues to work with other communities and regulators to improve the scientific understanding of the Great Bay to ensure scarce public resources are spent wisely. The City is participating in the Great Bay Municipal Coalition to assure that regulatory permit actions are supported by science that is agreed upon by all parties, not just the regulators.