Recent Collaborative Efforts
Febraury 21, 2014
In April of 2013, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) and the cities of Dover, Portsmouth and Rochester (Cities) cooperatively reached an agreement (click here for agreement) to conduct an independent scientific peer review of the DES document entitled "Numeric Nutrient Criteria for Great Bay Estuary" prepared in 2009. DES, which is responsible for setting water quality standards, produced the document to interpret the nitrogen water quality criteria for the Estuary. The document influenced the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to restrict sharply the discharge of nitrogen from local wastewater treatment plants, including those located in Dover, Portsmouth and Rochester.
Representatives from DES and the Cities of Dover, Portsmouth and Rochester collaboratively developed charge questions to be answered by the peer reviewers; established a scope of work and schedule; and identified and engaged qualified experts to perform the peer review. The representatives selected experts with a diversity of experience who had not previously studied or evaluated the Great Bay Estuary beyond what would have been expected within their field. Each expert completed a conflict of interest form which was reviewed by the parties and accepted prior to the commencement of the peer review.
Local experts and other interested parties were invited to submit comments to the peer reviewers. Click here to see the solicitation for public comment. Public comments were received from the Conservation Law Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, Dr. Frederick Short, Dr. Richard Langen and Dr. Stephen Jones as well as DES and the Cities. All public comments were forwarded to the peer reviewers.
This Report is the culmination of the peer reviewers' work to provide guidance to state regulators as well as the Great Bay communities. Both DES and the communities are committed to and charged with making well-supported assessments and decisions that affect the wastewater and storm water infrastructure investments necessary to meet current and future water quality goals.
Great Bay Municipal Coalition
The Great Bay Municipal Coalition presently consists of the cities of Dover, Portsmouth and Rochester. The goal of the Coalition is to ensure that sound science is used as a basis for state and federal regulatory decisions, so that municipal dollars can be used to deliver measurable environmental benefits. Current state and federal regulatory decisions are being based on water quality standards for the Estuary set by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES). Those standards include the Nutrient Criteria that will impact wastewater treatment plant discharges, stormwater management practices, and local land use development. Over the last four years, the Coalition has initiated various actions in the state and federal courts, and in administrative law forums, to press DES and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review the Great Bay Estuary data and to base its regulatory actions on good science.
Southeast Watershed Alliance
The City of Portsmouth is a member of the Southeast Watershed Alliance (SWA), a regional organization of municipalities in New Hampshire's coastal watershed. The mission of the SWA is to establish a regional framework for coastal watershed communities, regional planning commissions, the state and other stakeholders, to collaborate on planning, and implementation measures to improve and protect water quality and more effectively address the challenges of meeting clean water standards. Visit the SWA website for more information.
Great Bay Municipal Coalition
- Order of the Supreme Court withdrawing the appeal and the Settlement Agreement and Release
- Petition for Declaratory Judgment and Preliminary and Permanent Injunctive Relief
- Press Release of Initiation of Suit
- Court Notice of Decision - November 7, 2012
- Letter to EPA 5-4-12
- Timeline for Nitrogen Criteria Development in Great Bay Estuary *
- Exhibits to Scientific Misconduct Letter - Part 1/2 *
- Exhibits to Scientific Misconduct Letter - Part 2/2 *
- Update Letter to Ellen Gilinsky, Senior Policy Advisor, EPA Office of Water
- Letter to Ellen Gilinsky, Senior Policy Advisor, EPA Office of Water from Mayors of Portsmouth and Dover
Lawsuit Against DES
In March 2012, the communities of Dover, Exeter, Newmarket, Portsmouth and Rochester (the "Coalition") commenced a legal action against the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES). [See the Petition for Declaratory Judgment]. The Coalition sought to require DES to undertake a formal rule-making process relative to the agency's adoption of the 2009 Nutrient Criteria. [See the Press Release for a summary of the Coalition's concerns that led to the initiation of the suit].
On November 7, 2012, the Merrimack County Superior declined to order DES to conduct the formal rule-making. The Court dismissed the legal action brought by the Coalition on the grounds that the Coalition's request for relief lacked "justiciability," concluding it is EPA that issues the wastewater permits that will theoretically cause the harm to the communities. [See the Order dated November 7, 2012]. On January 23, 2013, the Superior Court declined to reconsider its original November order. The Coalition appealed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
In light of the "Joint Report of Peer Review Panel" dated February 13, 2014, which evaluated the 2009 Nutrient Criteria document, the Coalition and DES were able to resolve their dispute prior to oral argument before the New Hampshire Supreme Court. DES agreed it will not longer use the numeric nutrient thresholds in the 2009 Nutrient Criteria document and will develop a new approach for evaluating the health of the Great Bay Estuary. The Supreme Court appeal has been withdrawn. [See the Order of the Supreme Court withdrawing the appeal and the Settlement Agreement and Release].
Contact with EPA
The Coalition has had regular contact with EPA Region I headquarters over the past three years and obtained numerous documents through Freedom of Information Act Requests. Most recently the Coalition elected to bring its issues of concern to national headquarters.
Scientific Misconduct Letter
Follow up letters to Headquarters
Contact with DES