Jennifer WheelerLeadership Seacoast Program Committee Chairs Heidi Choate (’10) and Molly Hodgson Smith (’11) are leading a group of alumni charged with examining our program days for the 2013 program year.

I’ve enjoyed watching the sub-committee responsible for Environment Day, which will take place on May 22, determine what to cover. An eight hour program day may seem like a lot of time, but the reality is that we are only able to scratch the surface of this important topic within that time frame.

My suggestion to the group has been to develop a coastal perspective, focusing on what makes the Seacoast area unique from the rest of the region and state. I believe we should develop a program focused on the critical issues around the Seacoast’s environment- specifically around water- have been making some concerning headlines lately. The Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership released new data suggesting there is significant reason to be concerned. In fact, we recently learned that the majority of the water in the Seacoast estuaries has been classified as ‘contaminated.’

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is releasing new nitrogen permits that could require local communities to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy new sewage plants that pump into Great Bay.

In response, Seacoast communities are joining together in partnership to respond to the EPA’s request and reduce the pollution in Great Bay. The Coalition wants to buy cheaper sewage plants, arguing human waste is only one source of nitrogen-containing materials dumped into Great Bay. Other materials include law fertilizers. But some towns are already starting to stepping down from the coalition for various reasons.

The issues are complex and costly. And there are no easy solutions – no crystal ball through which to see how it’s all going to end up. I look forward to exploring the economic, social, political, and public health impact of all these issues during our discussion on Environment Day.


¹ 2013 State of Our Estuaries Report