posted on: 2/8/2020

On the AgendaThe City Council on Wednesday will consider a resolution that urges additional peer review of a draft nitrogen discharge permit recently issued by the Environmental Protection Agency for Great Bay. The Great Bay Total Nitrogen General Permit, or NPDES, will regulate nitrogen levels in the Great Bay watershed, including the levels of nitrogen discharged from wastewater treatment facilities. The cost of meeting those requirements would likely exceed $100 million in Dover alone, and could top $1 billion across all communities in the Great Bay watershed.

The City Council meeting will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 12, at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall. The agenda can be viewed here: go.usa.gov/xdku5.

The City of Dover has worked for decades to reduce nitrogen in the estuary, investing significantly in science-based wastewater technology and infrastructure.

"The City of Dover recognizes that new and innovative regulatory efforts are integral to those continuing efforts," said Community Services Director John Storer. "However, Dover and the communities that comprise the Great Bay Municipal Coalition maintain the criteria used by the EPA in its draft permit is flawed and incomplete."

As a result, Wednesday’s resolution before the City Council calls for a comprehensive and scientific peer review of the EPA’s draft permit prior to issuing the final permit.

At a City Council workshop on Feb. 5, City Manager J. Michael Joyal, Jr. and Community Services Director reviewed the draft permit with councilors and explained the potential ramifications to taxpayers and water and sewer system ratepayers. The presentation to the City Council can be viewed in its entirety here: https://dovernh.viebit.com/player.php?hash=UfLPvLi60Xj6.  

Resolution urges peer review of EPA ruling that could cost city over $100 million

posted on: 2/8/2020

On the AgendaThe City Council on Wednesday will consider a resolution that urges additional peer review of a draft nitrogen discharge permit recently issued by the Environmental Protection Agency for Great Bay. The Great Bay Total Nitrogen General Permit, or NPDES, will regulate nitrogen levels in the Great Bay watershed, including the levels of nitrogen discharged from wastewater treatment facilities. The cost of meeting those requirements would likely exceed $100 million in Dover alone, and could top $1 billion across all communities in the Great Bay watershed.

The City Council meeting will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 12, at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall. The agenda can be viewed here: go.usa.gov/xdku5.

The City of Dover has worked for decades to reduce nitrogen in the estuary, investing significantly in science-based wastewater technology and infrastructure.

"The City of Dover recognizes that new and innovative regulatory efforts are integral to those continuing efforts," said Community Services Director John Storer. "However, Dover and the communities that comprise the Great Bay Municipal Coalition maintain the criteria used by the EPA in its draft permit is flawed and incomplete."

As a result, Wednesday’s resolution before the City Council calls for a comprehensive and scientific peer review of the EPA’s draft permit prior to issuing the final permit.

At a City Council workshop on Feb. 5, City Manager J. Michael Joyal, Jr. and Community Services Director reviewed the draft permit with councilors and explained the potential ramifications to taxpayers and water and sewer system ratepayers. The presentation to the City Council can be viewed in its entirety here: https://dovernh.viebit.com/player.php?hash=UfLPvLi60Xj6.

Joyal said the new draft permit is a change in course from the previous draft permit, focusing now on nitrogen concentration levels for all 13 communities whose wastewater treatment facilities discharge into Great Bay. The new proposed levels and how they will be enforced have raised a number of concerns, including the cost to upgrade the wastewater and stormwater management systems to meet those requirements.

“We have a track record of reducing nitrogen that flows into Great Bay,” Joyal said, adding that city staff and the City Council have made significant wastewater system improvements that help diminish the amount of nitrogen discharged into Great Bay. “That’s the right thing to do for the health of Great Bay. Nevertheless, we have concerns that the levels being proposed in this permit are unnecessarily restrictive and, frankly, unattainable given the science as we know it today. There’s a significant cost in even trying to achieve what would be required by the permit. We’re talking on the scale of hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Following a draft permit issued for Dover by the EPA in 2011, the city has been working with the EPA, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, and other municipalities in the Great Bay estuary to seek options that are less costly and scientifically sound. The Great Bay Municipal Coalition conducted a peer review of the nitrogen criteria cited by the EPA and NHDES and found the data to be unfounded. As a result of that work, the DES agreed its nutrient criteria would not be used as a condition of the EPA permit.

Despite concerns and data provided to the EPA and NHDES from Great Bay municipalities, including Dover, the new draft permit calls for a reduction in nitrogen levels based on incomplete or outdated data.

According to the resolution before the City Council on Feb. 12, “The Draft General Permit’s new 100 kg/ha/yr (kilograms per hectare, per year) nitrogen loading threshold represents a substantial reduction in nitrogen from communities in the Great Bay watershed. The 100 kg/ha/yr threshold is not the product of any scientific study specific to Great Bay. It is, in essence, a hypothesis drawn from scientific studies—some decades old—of other embayments. However, attempting to use non-tailored studies is against EPA’s published Section 304(a) nutrient criteria, which states that ‘most often each estuary must be addressed individually and the reference condition must be derived from data within that system.’ The Draft General Permit is accompanied by a Fact Sheet that acknowledges Great Bay has historically experienced nitrogen loads well in excess of 100 kg/ha/yr historically, including during the pre-2005 time period, but eelgrass has remained stable except for a significant reduction in 2006—the year of the historic, 100-year flood commonly known as the Mother’s Day flood in New Hampshire. Eelgrass recovery appears in more recent years, during which EPA’s own Fact Sheet acknowledges ongoing nitrogen loads of approximately 150 kg/ha/yr.”

The resolution’s background information includes more recent assessments and data, as well as scientific analysis and review by experts from Tufts University and the UMass Coastal Program.

A public comment period pertaining to the draft permit is open until March 9, 2020. Comments must be submitted by the close of the comment period either in hard copy form or electronically to: Michael Cobb (Cobb.Michael@epa.gov), U.S. EPA, Region 1, 5 Post Office Square, Suite-100 (06-1), Boston, MA 02109-3912.

In addition, a public hearing on the draft permit will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 6 p.m. at the regional office of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, located at NHDES Portsmouth Regional Office, located at Pease International Tradeport, 222 International Drive, Suite 175, Portsmouth, NH 03801.

The public is encouraged to attend.