We should talk

A recent editorial  in the Newsletter  contained this line.

“Septic systems  can be a significant  source of nutrients and bacterial  pollution when not properly maintained.”

The editorial was a short one concerning the Great Bay, that body of water that has some of us wringing our  hands.

Maybe not all of us, maybe. I want to be careful here and not get everyone  upset. You might be a very  conscientious septic system owner. I just have wondered how septic systems seem to get a pass in the discussion. I think we as a society have  over utilized  these systems in place of  doing the right thing. I  have never understood how a whole Town can be on septic and the groundwater somehow escapes the taint.

Every State  seems to be wrestling with this issue. I don’t  think  NH  has such a focus.

I have had  people say “Oh  we are on sand, our system is perfect”.


I read  recently a tiny news  article about a soil survey in NH. That  some money had been let for this purpose. In fact I have seen  articles about similar  work in other States. It would seem that we really don’t know all that much about our soils. Perhaps  we assess the location of the proposed  septic system but the contiguous geology is  not surveyed. We only have general ideas about our soil. I swear  I saw a map of NH and it was all red. Red  delineating not  a great location for septic. Was I dreaming? Is that  possible?.

I found the map

I have been asking some questions this week, before the editorial appeared. I have been  asking the same questions for years. I just  can’t  get my head around an entire Town on septic.

I also  have never  missed an  opportunity to inform my readers of Combined Sewer Overflows into the Squamscott River. Overflows from our terrific  system here in Town.

We have to address the issue of wastewater  treatment and  everyone is going to be  involved  and pay.

Here is some information gathered this week concerning septic systems.

System  maintenance- Pump at least  once very 3 years. NH  is a net exporter of septage . If other States stop accepting the waste from haulers  you/ we are in trouble.

The waste that is pumped has to be dumped in  a Town with a treatment plant. Do you know where your hauler dumps your septage?. I think you should know. They are supposed to keep  records of how much  they pump and dump.

If you have a dishwasher you are supposed to pump your tank every year. In my view the once every 3 years is bogus.

You will pay huge sums  of  money to replace your system should it fail. We should have in place a loan program to address  failed and failing systems. Most States  suggest drawing a map  of your system (tank cover) location. This says to me that the pumping is infrequent and most people have no clue  about their waste system.

I watch House  Hunters, I know the focus  of today’s home buyer.

“Oh   I love these wood floors!”

They never ask about  sewers, water, schools, emergency services, nearest hospital, flight paths……

Those floors will need sanding .

A map  will insure you don’t build a gazebo, deck ,or bocce court over your system.

Shouldn’t I be seeing  lots of pump trucks  out around the Seacoast? Why is this  a  Mom & Pop business, low volume?

Location of systems — putting lots of systems right next to a river or stream sets up the situation where failures are worse for the environment. Also  given all the flooding lately, putting more septic systems in flood plains seems like a bad idea.

Now the kicker, we are talking about  nitrogen correct? UNH should replace the  porous  asphalt news release with this  one and run this press release  instead every month.

Nutrient Issue- The Great Bay and many tributaries  are  encountering more nitrogen than can be healthful for their ecology. Much of this is coming from septic systems. The unfortunate thing is that  a well functioning  septic system is the perfect delivery vehicle of nitrogen  to shallow groundwater. The dissolved nitrogen flows right through the system. UNH researchers are  finding  that the  ground water  system is loaded with nitrogen.

I want to be  sure that decisions  involving  wastewater treatment involve all citizens of the Seacoast.


One thought on “We should talk

  1. There is a detailed soil map of Exeter which we used in the 80’s to form a master plan based thereon. There is also a detailed map of the aquifers of Rockingham county, including the one that our dump sits in. We have the information, we just don’t use it.

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