Rep. Rosemarie Rung Op-Ed: Keep Our Lakes, Rivers and Water Safe and Clean

The following op-ed appeared in the N.H. Union Leader.

There is an adage that “a stitch in time saves nine” — meaning that fixing a problem early can prevent a larger, sometimes irreversible problem later. For New Hampshire, three situations come to mind that if not addressed now, will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, threaten $2.6 billion in tourism revenue, and even take away Granite Staters’ access to safe water.

The first is the growing prevalence of cyanobacteria blooms in New Hampshire lakes, which are thriving as water temperatures rise ever higher. Even though it is early summer, over a dozen toxic blooms have been reported in lakes throughout the state, including several in Lake Winnipesaukee.

Toxic blooms not only restrict recreational use of our lakes, but they can cause acute sickness and can even lead to death for small children and pets consuming affected water. One component of a cyanotoxin is even linked to ALS and other fatal neurological diseases. It can become airborne and travel a distance from shore impacting people even away from the water.

What can be done to prevent these blooms? For those living on or near the shoreline, it is imperative to create a buffer of native vegetation to provide some shade and cooling of the water, stabilize soil, prevent erosion and runoff, and absorb phosphorus that otherwise would go into the lake or river.

Don’t use phosphorus-containing fertilizers (or any, for that matter), don’t allow animal waste from pets or waterfowl near the water, and have septic systems evaluated as those near lakes or streams often don’t show signs of failure.

Boaters need to ensure that their wake does not disturb water plants in the sediment or cause erosion of the shoreline. NH LAKES has more suggestions at their website, www.nhlakes.org.

Some of these actions may be inconvenient or cost money, but not doing anything will cost hundreds of millions in treatment and alternative sources of drinking water as well as threaten our tourism industry. Despite the regulatory role of the N.H. Department of Environmental Services, they do not have the staff and budget to respond to all suspected blooms and shoreland protection violations.

Secondly, one would think it is preferable to prevent a body of water from contamination in the first place, right? Not so, according to many Granite State legislators. Bills to control the siting and oversight of landfills, specifically one proposed near pristine Forest Lake, have failed, leaving open the possibility of phosphorus being added to bodies of water from leachate seeping from landfills.

Leachate also contains toxic chemicals like PFAS, a group of “forever chemicals” that once introduced to nature, do not go away. The state legislature has been trying to prevent this risk to our lakes, but we face an uphill battle fighting the money and lobbyists of the for-profit waste industry.

Finally, there is an election coming up on Nov. 5 when over 400 state legislators, five executive councilors and a governor will be selected. These state office holders will have more influence on the quality of our waters than the person elected to the White House.

State elected officials determine the budget of NHDES (and all state departments), they vote on protective legislation, and determine how the state will work with municipalities on water infrastructure and funding.

What can Granite Staters do? Use the time now and until Nov. 5 to research the candidates’ position on water and environmental issues. It’s easy to research the votes of incumbents seeking re-election. For those candidates promising to cut taxes, ask them what budget cuts to expect. Will it come from NHDES?

Finally, vote (and all the way down the ballot), because that is where state races are printed. Protecting water takes many actions and voting is a good start.

Rep. Rosemarie Rung (D-Merrimack) represents Hillsborough — District 12.

 

1 comment

  1. John S. 3 weeks ago July 2, 2024

    Great article. Rep Rosemarie states: “It’s easy to research the votes of incumbents seeking re-election.” Even though NH Lakes, OLA, and other non-profits are also non-political, is there a link that could just have a spreadsheet of lake-related votes over the past 2 legislative sessions that only highlight sewage setbacks, wake boards, etc? NH lakes become more and more un-swimmable every year. More aggressive legislation is needed in 2025 and 2026. And please stop using fertilizer if you are a homeowner remotely local to a lake, especially the fertilizer from Russia that is being sold locally with human excrement mixed in.

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