As we put together the new website for Plymouth Village Water and Sewer District I wanted to point out as I add older posts to the new system the original date that the item was posted on will change to the date that I have reposted it. Sorry for an inconvenience that this may cause.
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NH Legal Perspective: Looking at drainage and run-off: Where does the water go?
In addition to the construction plans you will need for the project, consideration must be given to the impact the work will have on surface drainage and run-off. Why? Because the last thing you need is to have your completed project under attack from neighbors for causing flooding on their property. For projects requiring planning board site plan approval, you will also need to show that your project will not adversely impact drainage on or off site.
On-site considerations: For your own long term satisfaction and preservation of the building improvements, you will want to ensure that you have managed how water flows on your property. On an open lot (unimproved property) rain falling from the skies hits the ground and is absorbed into the ground. If there are naturally occurring ponds, depressions, streams or ditches, water may pool and run naturally on the property. Once you disturb the ground, water courses change. A vertical barrier such as a foundation wall may act like a dam and cause water to build up against the foundation potentially leaking in, or pool in the side yard drowning lawn and gardens.
Alternative pathways for the water can be provided by a variety of engineered solutions once the issue is identified. For example, underground perforated pipe will direct water away from a foundation and allow it to disperse and dissipate.
Similarly horizontal barriers, such as pavement or patio stones, prevent water hitting the surface from penetrating the ground and being absorbed. Instead, the water hits the hard impervious surface and runs “downhill” picking up speed and volume as it goes. When the water finally hits bare ground, it can gouge the dirt and create unwanted ditches and canyons on your property. Runoff damage can be avoided by planning the pavement or patio so that water runs off in many directions rather than being concentrated in one location.
A roof works the same as pavement. Water hitting a roof is also not hitting the ground directly and being absorbed into the ground where the building sits. Rather, it is directed to the roof edge to cascade off onto the ground, or collected in a gutter and directed to a single point of discharge.
Water falling directly from a roof can damage plantings and it can splash against the building causing rot and mildew over time.
Either adds to the cost of maintenance and will diminish property values if not addressed.
Thus, the on-site result of poor drainage planning is primarily limited to maintenance costs. By comparison, the off-site impacts of poor drainage planning can create legal risk and liability.
If you have a dam on your property, you will be responsible for all damage caused by flooding downstream if your dam is breached. And you may not have insurance coverage.
Though not many properties host dams, there are more than one might expect in New Hampshire and owning property with a dam comes with significant responsibility. Dams were a part of the economic heritage of New Hampshire, installed to run large and small mill operations.
Dams were also used to control water levels in various lakes and streams around the state. Now that planning focus has shifted to restoring natural waterways and lake levels, dams are being removed at state direction. The removal process itself can be quite expensive and highly regulated. Be sure to seek legal counsel before acquiring any property with a dam.
Off-site impacts: Aside from dams, doing work on your property may also change water flow in ways that adversely impact neighboring properties. If care is not taken when constructing or paving a driveway, your hillside driveway can create a water slide which channels run-off directly into your downhill neighbor’s yard.
Similarly, raising the grade of your yard to shed water away from your foundation may turn your neighbor’s yard into a swamp. Sump pumps, foundation drains, gutters and downspouts must dispose of water in ways that do not add increased runoff or drainage on to neighboring properties. Solutions that collect and dissipate water slowly allow natural absorption and avoid water damage.
Municipal responsibility: Just as you do not have the right to dump water from your property onto the property of others, towns and cities are not permitted to offload road drainage onto neighboring property. Drainage ways must be obtained by acquired rights such as easements. Otherwise the drainage can be considered as much a trespass as having a person or vehicle cross the land. Drainage associated with road construction must be contained and channeled to avoid damage to abutting properties. Municipal construction projects should be fully engineered to account for associated drainage. Even routine road work, such as regrading and resurfacing, must attend to drainage concerns.
A poorly placed culvert, installed too deep or too shallow, draining too large an area, or channeling water in too narrow a space, can wreak havoc on neighboring land. Damage can include excessive siltation, pooling and ponding of water, contamination from road chemicals. The municipality can be required to pay to restore the property and correct the drainage trespass.
In short, if you are thinking about doing some landscaping or construction that may have drainage impacts, or if you are concerned about the impacts landscaping or construction carried out by others may have on your property, contact an attorney. These matters are highly fact-sensitive, and you will likely need advice tailored to your specific situation.
NH Legal Perspective is a bi-weekly column sponsored by Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green PA. This column does not provide legal advice. We recommend that you consult an attorney for specific guidance on legal questions.
– See more at: http://www.unionleader.com/article/20160124/NEWS02/160129409/0/SEARCH#sthash.vRPXzyGe.dpuf
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1 million water samples collected for assessment
CONCORD — Evaluating all the surface waters of New Hampshire isn’t an exact science, especially because it would be difficult if not impossible to obtain water samples every two years from every bend and cove in every one of the state’s 8,800 “assessment units,” as they are called.
A long river or large pond can have several separate areas or “units” tested. In a state with 1,000 lakes and ponds and 17,000 miles of rivers and streams, the math can be overwhelming.
For the most recent assessment, now under review, state environmental officials collected more than 1 million water samples, according to Ted Diers at the Department of Environmental Services.
“We get data from a variety of sources,” he said. In addition to DES staff, data come from UNH researchers, water treatment plants throughout the state and volunteers who are dispatched on a regular basis.
In recent years, those efforts have not turned up anything alarming, according to Diers.
“The engineering that’s gone on over the past four decades as a result of the Clean Water Act, and funding from federal, state and local government — our tax dollars — have created a pretty remarkable system in which we put very clean water back into our water bodies, sometimes cleaner than the water body that’s receiving it,” he said.
“Where we have problems, and there are a number of places that we do, it’s largely related to stormwater runoff. That’s where the focus is these days. We don’t have toxic waste gushing out of factories or sewer lines going directly into water without treatment.”
While there are no toxins at dangerous levels reported in the state’s surface water inventory, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And the inventory doesn’t include private or public wells, like those contaminated at the Pease International Tradeport.
Minute levels of undesirable toxins have been detected in samples from several of the state’s major rivers, including the Cocheco, Lamprey and Squamscott.
Other waters on the draft of the “impaired list” for 2014 include the Oyster River in Durham, Bellamy River in north and south Dover, Winnicut River in Greenland, Piscataqua River in Dover and Portsmouth, Sagamore Creek, South Mill Pond and North Mill Pond in Portsmouth, the Androscoggin River in Berlin and Shelburne, the Exeter River in Fremont and Exeter, the Contoocook River in Jaffrey and Squam Lake in Holderness.
Bodies of water that were taken off the list from 2014 include the Great Bay estuary, Lake Winnisquam, Opechee Bay in Laconia, Mirror Lake in Tuftonboro and Harrisville Pond.
The water quality report cards for each of the 8,800 assessment units are available on the state DES website at des.nh.gov using the Surface Water Quality Report Card Query.
The Merrimack River appears to be in great shape, with small levels of bacteria detected below Manchester, mostly likely due to combined sewer and wastewater overflow in heavy rains. It’s not on the impaired list because a plan to deal with the problem is already in place.
The Nashua River has some pH problems in the Mine Falls dam area and in the Nashua Canal, but a program is in place to deal with that.
The only problem reported in Lake Massabesic, Manchester’s water supply, is “low dissolved oxygen saturation,” the most common problem in the state, which means some form of plant life or algae is consuming too much of the water’s oxygen.
– See more at: http://www.unionleader.com/article/20160124/NEWS07/160129414/1009/NEWS12#sthash.FBgEnJ4u.dpuf
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Clean water, costly rules in NH
It’s no surprise the question comes up more frequently these day, with the nation’s attention focused on the contamination crisis in Flint, Mich., while Congress debates a plan to expand the reach of the Clean Water Act.
“The response that I give is — in general, and especially compared to the rest of the country — our water quality is excellent,” says Diers.
He ought to know. As an administrator of the Water Pollution Division in the state Department of Environmental Services, Diers presides over a list of “impaired waters” the state has to submit to the EPA to comply with the Clean Water Act.
The list, which has been compiled every other year since 2002, is more than just a report card on New Hampshire surface waters. The information is used by the EPA in a variety of ways that can have a big impact on local budgets, including pollution control grants and discharge permits.
The draft version of the 2014 list was open for public comment from Oct. 14 to Dec. 11. Diers and his associates are now working on the final version that should be sent to EPA regional offices in Boston within the next month or two.
“This year is the first year in which we have more water bodies coming off the list than we have going onto the list,” Diers said. “That’s a good sign.”
The stakes are high this time around, as the EPA prepares to issue new permits for stormwater discharge in April. The usual debate over whether a certain body of water should be on the list or not has taken on added intensity.
Environmental groups like the Conservation Law Foundation argue to keep certain bodies of water on the list, and protected, while cities and towns often make the opposite argument.
They want to keep certain bodies of water off the list, especially those that accommodate stormwater runoff or the discharge from a sewage treatment plant. If a city or town discharges into “impaired waters,” taxpayers could be looking at big investments to deal with the issue.
“The concern is that when the DES declares a certain waterway impaired, the EPA has to do something about it in their permits,” said Robert Lucic, an attorney with Sheehan, Phinney, Bass and Green who advises municipalities on compliance with environmental regulations.
“What the EPA will do is say to Manchester or Dover or Salem, you’ve got to do these certain things to start to restrict stormwater flow into this or that stream, estuary or lake, and that can get very, very expensive.”
The problem is compounded by the fact that once-generous federal grant programs for water treatment have mostly dried up, leaving local communities to foot the bill on what is essentially another unfunded mandate.
In comments filed on Dec. 11, Manchester wastewater treatment plant Superintendent Robert Robinson writes “it is imperative that the list accurately depicts the impairments of our surface waters, as these impairments have a direct impact on permits issued to communities.”
The city’s filing makes clear that Manchester thinks the standards being used to judge water quality in New Hampshire are unrealistic, treating every body of water as a potential drinking supply.
“This standard should not apply to any body of water or wastewater treatment facility unless the water produced is being immediately used for potable water on an approved basis,” according to the city of Manchester, whose comments were prepared by Rick Cantu, Robinson’s predecessor who now runs his own water quality consulting business.
“They’re saying that the quality of the Merrimack River and all rivers has to meet drinking water quality standards,” according to Cantu. “The (cities and towns) are going to have to start treating stormwater to meet those standards, and they’re going to find it will cost hundred of millions of dollars to put in the necessary equipment.”
Cantu says big money could be spent to achieve marginal improvements in water quality in communities required to meet the new stormwater regulations. That excludes most of the small and rural parts of New Hampshire, but includes most cities and larger towns.
Rochester Public Works Director John Storer doesn’t mince any words in comments on behalf of the Lilac City. “Rochester believes that certain of the proposed listings are without adequate scientific or legal basis and, in fact, are contrary to available scientific evidence. As such, these listings are arbitrary and capricious and contrary to law.”
The city takes issue with the classification of the Cocheco River, and the potential costs it will be facing. “Rochester believes that such required efforts will impose significant burdens and costs on both Rochester and its citizen … without any reasonably clear evidence that such burdens will in fact result in any meaningful improvement to the waters into which Rochester discharges and/or downstream waters.”
Portsmouth supports the NHDES decision to take the Great Bay Estuary off the list, but the Conservation Law Foundation protests the same decision.
In addition to Manchester, Rochester and Portsmouth, communities that could be under the gun with the new “impaired waters” list include Dover, Bedford, Londonderry, Merrimack and Salem.
Diers doesn’t deny that New Hampshire has tough water quality standards. The Legislature has determined that we have only two classes of water, he said, Class A, which is drinking water supply, and Class B, which must be suitable for swimming, fishing and wildlife habitat.
“We don’t write off any bodies of water in this state,” he said. “We care a whole lot about water quality.”
Diers spent 15 years working with the DES coastal program before taking over the Watershed Management Bureau in 2012.
“Most of our lakes are meeting water quality standards, except for pH and mercury. In general, the ‘fishable, swimmable’ goal is within our grasp,” he wrote in a letter to volunteers who help gather the water samples for the DES.
But the state still has some problems, mostly created by “aquatic invaders” like exotic milfoil or other plants and algae that suck up all the oxygen needed for fish and other wildlife. Another big problem is chloride contamination from runoff containing road salt.
Everyone agrees that New Hampshire waterways have come a long way from the days when the Merrimack River was an open industrial sewer. How much cleaner they need to be, and at what cost, comes down to a matter of finding the right balance between environmental and economic concerns.
“Our cities and towns face these terrible budget dilemmas,” said Lucic. “They have schools to run, roads to fix, all these services they need to provide. There’s not a whole lot of fat out there. Adding another layer of expenditure and putting it all on local water resource people is going to cost real money.”
– See more at: http://www.unionleader.com/article/20160124/NEWS12/160129417#sthash.bnADNJqs.dpuf