Department of Environmental Services | New Hampshire Public Radio

Department of Environmental Services

NHDES

With another drought developing in much of the state as of this Earth Day, Gov. Chris Sununu is urging affected residents to take advantage of an emergency aid program.

Much of southern and western New Hampshire is in moderate drought, with abnormally dry conditions in the rest of the state. Without more sustained precipitation, forecasters say, the drought could worsen in the coming weeks.

NHDES

A top state environmental regulator who had ties to the chemical industry has resigned less than a month after his confirmation.

The governor and Executive Council on Wednesday accepted Dennis Deziel’s resignation as assistant commissioner of the Department of Environmental Services.

Deziel began the job in late March and says in a statement that he is leaving for “personal reasons.”

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

The state says it hasn't been following its own rules in notifying people of potential water contamination near the Saint-Gobain plastics factory in Merrimack.

Regulators say they’re working to correct the problem and think most affected properties are already aware of the issue. But citizen advocates are worried that some in the area may be unknowingly drinking contaminated water as a result of the lapse.

NHDES

New Hampshire is likely headed into an early spring drought despite recent rain and snow, according to the latest national forecast – and state officials are already warning of the potential drinking water impacts.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

After years of efforts to address toxic chemical emissions from the Saint-Gobain plastics factory in Merrimack, New Hampshire and the town are separately suing the company for delays in the installation of a required treatment system.

The lawsuits filed this week in Hillsborough Superior Court focus on air emissions of harmful PFAS chemicals, which have settled into drinking water serving hundreds of homes in the area.

Sargent Corporation

New Hampshire is facing a lawsuit for permitting landfill expansions without having an updated plan for reducing solid waste.

The suit, filed Thursday in Merrimack Superior Court, comes from the Conservation Law Foundation. 

Sargent Corporation

Advocates are challenging the state’s approval of a plan to expand the North Country’s largest private landfill, in Bethlehem.

New Hampshire gave permission last month for Vermont-based Casella to add six acres to the facility, extending its life through 2026.

Gunstock Mountain via Twitter

A new state aid program has already gotten more than 60 requests for bottled water from people whose wells have run dry as a result of the drought, which has persisted in Southeastern New Hampshire despite recent rain and snow.

The dry conditions have improved in much of the state and region, but remain extreme in much of Rockingham and Strafford Counties and surrounding areas, as well as in southern Maine and from Cape Cod into Rhode Island.

Are you noticing any issues with your home's water supply? Send us an email with your story.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

The state is offering emergency aid and bottled water for low-income homeowners whose drinking water wells are running dry due to the ongoing drought.

The state’s Drinking Water and Groundwater Trust Fund is putting up $1.5 million for the relief program, which is the first of its kind in any drought. 

Low-income homeowners whose private wells have run dry can request temporary free deliveries of bottled water for drinking and cooking.

Casella

The state has approved an expansion for the North Country’s largest private landfill, allowing the Bethlehem facility’s owner to add six acres or about 1.2 million cubic yards in capacity.

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Merlene Whiting Pilotte / Courtesy

More than 10 percent of New Hampshire is now in an extreme drought, with Lake Winnipesaukee and other reservoirs at record low levels and an increasing number of water wells running dry.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

The state has denied a request from the Saint-Gobain plastics factory in Merrimack for extra time to make upgrades that will control PFAS chemical emissions.

The facility’s air emissions of PFAS were found to have settled into hundreds of local water wells at unsafe levels in 2016.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Casella has filed its first formal application to build a new landfill in the North Country – a major step forward for a controversial project that’s been in the works for more than a year.

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Cori Princell / NHPR

The state is out with a first-of-its-kind report on the health of New Hampshire’s lakes, showing the effects of climate change, population growth and a decline in acid rain.

The report takes a comprehensive look at water quality trends from the past few decades or longer in 150 of the state’s lakes and ponds monitored by volunteers and state biologists.

Scott Heron / Flickr CC

State agencies say there’s room for improvement in a construction permit process designed to protect endangered species – but they’re still debating who’s responsible for enforcing and revising the recently loosened rules.

Keith Williams / Flickr CC

A fight is brewing at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services about the permitting rules for construction projects. Builders support a recent change that loosened a key standard, while conservationists worry it'll harm endangered species. 

The groups will air their views Thursday at the first of two virtual public input sessions at DES.

NHPR’s environmental reporter Annie Ropeik joined All Things Considered host Peter Biello to explain the significance of the controversy. 


Roush Clean Tech / Twitter

The city of Manchester is adding 14 propane-fueled school buses to its fleet in an effort to improve local air quality.

The city has 81 school buses in total. The new propane-powered ones will replace the oldest buses, all of which are between 14 and 18 years old. Officials say tests show the propane buses can cut emissions from diesel buses by 96%.

Jessica Hunt / NHPR

Southern New Hampshire looks to be headed for a drought this summer, after more than a month without any significant rainfall following a low-snow winter.

The state got about half an inch of rain on May 15. 

NH State Parks

The state will not conduct some routine sampling of inland beaches this summer due the pandemic.

The Department of Environmental Services says they’ll focus on monitoring and responding to blooms of toxic algae at freshwater shores this season.

They will not regularly sample those beaches for fecal bacteria as they have in other years.

They say their lab capacity and other logistics have been hampered by the coronavirus.

Chris Nash / NHDES

The state is temporarily banning shellfish harvesting in coastal Atlantic waters because of a severe bloom of potentially toxic algae.

The ban applies to mussels, clams and oysters in near-shore and offshore waters. It does not apply to lobsters, or to inland areas, such as Great Bay and Little Bay.

The advisory also does not indicate a threat to swimmer or surfers, who were allowed back onto the Seacoast beaches as of Monday.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

The state is trying to reassure environmental advocates in the wake of a controversial federal decision to ease pollution enforcement during the pandemic.

Courtesy of Henry Lavoie

State environmental regulators are ordering Ice Castles, a seasonal tourist attraction in North Woodstock where visitors can explore a frozen world of ice installations, to reapply for a storm-water permit after inspectors found multiple variations from a previously approved plan.

NH Fish & Game

Environmental groups say a new state rule, which has support from the construction industry and could become permanent, puts endangered species at greater risk from development.

For years, state regulation has mandated that development projects “not result in adverse impacts” to a list of more than 50 critters that the state considers threatened or endangered.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Lawmakers and advocates were at Exeter’s new wastewater treatment plant Monday to call for more federal spending on infrastructure.

Exeter has spent more than $50 million to upgrade its wastewater system, under a federal mandate to discharge less nitrogen to Great Bay.

Now, the town has a higher-capacity facility with a smaller environmental footprint – thanks in part to state and federal grants. The last piece of the new facility is set to go online in the next few weeks.

FLORIANHUAG / FLICKR/CC

 

A group of Hampstead residents is suing the town’s privately-operated water utility, Hampstead Area Water Company, and its operator, Lewis Builders Development, alleging the companies’ operations are illegal and have made the residents’ wells virtually unusable. 

CEYHUN (JAY) ISIK / CREATIVE COMMONS

New state limits are now in effect for PFAS chemicals in public drinking water supplies.  The now-common industrial contaminants have been linked to health risks. 

New Hampshire's new standards are the nation’s strictest, and largely the first of their kind. 

Google Earth

The city of Lebanon is asking other communities to join in a potential lawsuit over how state lawmakers approved new limits on PFAS chemicals in drinking water.

A legislative committee put the new PFAS standards to a vote at their mid-July hearing without giving a chance for any public testimony.

It was a surprise to people on both sides of the issue who'd come expecting to speak.

NH Fish and Game

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services has closed the state’s ocean coastline and Hampton Seabrook Harbor to shellfish harvesting. The agency came to this decision after finding high levels of a toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning in mussel samples taken yesterday. The toxin comes from what’s known as red tide.

 

Chris Nash is the Shellfish Program Manager at the department and he says the toxin is produced by algae.

John Phelan / Wikimedia Commons

The state begins public hearings Monday on the final draft of a major update to its wetlands rules.

The regulations lay out when developers need a permit to work around sensitive wetlands – whether to build a dock, a bridge or a logging road – and set parameters for those developments.

The state hasn't rewritten this code since 1991, and they've been working on these new regulations since 2014 – including a series of public hearings on an early draft this year.

Ceyhun (Jay) Isik / https://flic.kr/p/cG7qFL

Right now, state regulators are doing something they almost never do: writing their own limit on a chemical contaminant in drinking water.

It's called a maximum contaminant level, or MCL. In the past, like most states, New Hampshire has used federal standards as its default MCLs.

State regulators say they wrote one other drinking water standard, for the lead-based gasoline additive MTBE, in 2000. 

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