NEWINGTON, N.H. (AP) – Members of a committee trying to solve the Seacoast region’s sewage problems don’t like the idea of dumping treated wastewater into the ocean, but they aren’t ready to rule it out either.

The Great Bay Estuary Commission was formed as an advisory group in 2003 to study sewage disposal options for the 44 communities in the Great Bay Watershed. Members met Thursday to discuss a 100-page draft report from a consulting firm that includes four options: discharging the waste into the ocean, using decentralized treatment and existing facilities, adding land discharge to current facilities or maintaining the status quo.

Much of the debate focused on the “big pipe” option, with critics arguing that it would encourage sprawl, waste reusable water and foul the Gulf of Maine. Erik Anderson, president of the New Hampshire Commercial Fishermen’s Association, moved to remove the pipe idea from consideration, but the effort failed.

Aside from its cost and complexity, pumping wastewater into the sea would pollute the ocean and harm vulnerable fish and shellfish, migrating marine mammals and various aquaculture projects, he argued.

Bob Scherpf, vice president of the consulting firm Metcalf & Eddy, said it would cost $589 million to build the pipelines and pumping stations necessary to pipe waste four miles out to sea.

Rep. David Borden, D-New Castle, said the pipe idea “is not solving a pollution problem, it’s moving a pollution problem.”

But Dick Green, Rochester’s representative to the council, said towns caught between growth, sewage problems and federal regulations may want a regional waste solution.

He argued that piping waste to sea would clean up the estuary.

“We’d better start dealing with this on the Seacoast because it’s not going to go away,” he said.

The commission will decide what to put in its final report in mid-April. Another group, the Estuary Alliance for Sewage Treatment, will have the final saw.

Information from: New Hampshire Union Leader,

AP-ES-02-02-08 1224EST

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