Denitrification of Westport's river well worth the effort

Posted 11/4/20

To the editor:

As a consultant to the EPA for more than 30 years, one thing I have learned is that all environmental problems are complicated. Likewise, the solutions to such problems are often …

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Denitrification of Westport's river well worth the effort

Posted

To the editor:

As a consultant to the EPA for more than 30 years, one thing I have learned is that all environmental problems are complicated. Likewise, the solutions to such problems are often complicated.

Nitrogen pollution in the Westport River is no exception. No one is saying septic systems are the ONLY cause. And no one is saying denitrification systems are the ONLY solution. We will need to address all sources, starting with those we know can have an impact and for which viable solutions are available.

 I have attended workshops on denitrification and spoken with staff from the Septic Systems Test Center. The “technology” is not complicated. Wood chips and sawdust? I can understand that. Some are concerned these systems will cost more. They may now, but like all new technologies the costs will come down as economies of scale kick in.  Twenty years ago wind and solar were very expensive sources of electricity compared to conventional coal and gas generation. Today they are cheaper than fossil fuel.

The proposed Board of Health regulation will impact only new construction and homeowners needing to expand the capacity of their existing septic system. The impact on new construction costs will be small but not negligible. Existing homeowners who increase their septic load (e.g., by adding a bedroom) will probably need to modify their septic system anyway.

By passing this regulation we can start along the path towards improved water quality. We will learn as we go. As the number of systems in town increases, we can monitor their effectiveness and use that information to make better decisions in the future. Hopefully, if costs come down it will make sense to broaden the requirement, for example to any systems that fail Title V.

Spend any time on the Westport River and you will agree it is a special place and one worth protecting. Doing so will come at some cost. The BOH regulation is not singling out builders and existing homeowners and asking them to pay the entire cost. All of us will have to contribute in different ways.

Finally, the Town of Westport and its residents should recognize anyone who installs a denitrification system. A free beach pass or family membership to the Watershed Association, for example, would help show these people their efforts are appreciated.

Jeff Cantin

Westport

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.