NH sewage treatment plant discharges filtration discs

15 03 2011

Sewage filtration discs found on Seabrook Beach in New Hampshire.

Seanetter Stephen Brezinski in Maine was the first to notify me of the appearance of thousands of small, perforated plastic discs on Seabrook beach in New Hampshire this weekend. After his report, Seanetter Linda McCallum who walks on Plum Island in Massachusetts, and Alicia Lenci, who walks Crane Beach a bit farther south on Massachusetts’ North Shore, both reported that their beaches were closed due to “a potential health risk.” While the discs themselves had not yet appeared as far south as Alicia’s beach, officials there have chosen to err on the side of caution based on the origin of the mysterious objects:

The discs have been traced back to a sewage treatment plant in Hooksett, NH, where heavy rains and melting snow overwhelmed the plant’s discharge systems and caused the small plastic filters to spill into the Merrimack River north of Manchester. Normally, the discs are contained in large tubs where they aid in the digestion of sewage. Not surprisingly then, the discs have tested positive for E. coli and Enterococcus, common bacteria inhabiting the human intestinal tract.

The path of the discs. Orange markers represent reports of beach closures.

After the release a week ago, the discs traveled south and then east along the course of the Merrimack River, which meets the Atlantic just south of the New Hampshire border. They began appearing on Seabrook beach on Thursday. Officials in Massachusetts have criticized their counterparts in New Hampshire for failing to notify their neighbors downstream about the accidental discharge, and it remains unclear who will ultimately pay for the cleanup of the thousands of discs. It is not known how many of the objects escaped into the river, but plant officials say the facility may have contained 9-10 million in total, and it is unclear what portion of those were released.

In the interim, beachgoers who encounter the discs are warned not to touch the objects without gloves, and to wash their hands thoroughly after visiting the beach.

New Hampshire DES officials are requesting that anyone who finds the discs call them at 603-271-3710, so they can track where they are going. Your SEANET blogger also requests that you notify us if you find them.





10 responses

25 05 2011
SEANET returns to the mainland « SEANET Blog

[…] in Hooksett, NH. These things really get around; I first shared the story with you, dear readers, back in March when the release first occurred. Nothing like plastic that’s been stewing in human waste to […]

27 06 2011
Robert Barmore

I have found the disks all over beacbes from Wallis Sands to Rye, but I also found dozens of them on Elephant Rock Beach (Acoaxet) in Westport, MA. Well south and west of Cape Cod.

Robert barmore
Portsmouth, NH

22 07 2011

I found one of these discs on Brant Rock beach in Marshfield, Ma. this past week. I picked it up with a plastic bag and threw it away. it was the only one I have seen.

27 12 2011
Atlantic flotsam, living and otherwise « SEANET Blog

[…] who also walks the bay side of Cape Cod, sent in a photo of some now very familiar detritus. The sewage discs released from a Hooksett, NH treatment plant back in March. Seanetters have found them as far south as New […]

19 06 2012
Adding insult to injury « SEANET Blog

[…] mouth, it snags both incoming ocean debris and outgoing river discharge. This is a hotspot for the Hooksett sewage disc outfall, and on any given day, you can find tens to hundreds of those little plastic grids strewn about the […]

12 01 2014
Maura Coughlin

These are now turning up in the UK.

13 01 2014

Only a matter of time, I suppose, but still discouraging. Where in the UK, out of curiosity?

13 01 2014
Maura Coughlin

In Newquay. I saw mention of it on a facebook page devoted to beachcombing in the UK.

24 08 2014
Peter Page

Im still finding them washing up on the Bay side beach in Provincetown, Ma. harbor.

25 08 2014

I see them turning up everywhere still too. And our European friends are also finding them in increasing numbers. So pointless.

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