The Bulletin Board

A pair of new laws tackle cyanobacteria, water quality

By: - July 7, 2022 2:02 pm
Exterior of the Department of Environmental Services

House Bill 1066 requires the Department of Environmental Services to draft a cyanobacteria plan. (Dana Wormald | New Hampshire Bulletin)

Gov. Chris Sununu signed a pair of new laws addressing the state’s growing cyanobacteria problem last week.

One requires the state to create a plan to address cyanobacteria and includes $30,000 in state funding to do so, while the other tightens regulations on a possible cause of cyanobacteria: septic systems.

Before House Bill 1293, homeowners could design their own septic systems without a permit. They will no longer have that option as of Aug. 30, when the new law goes into effect. 

Leaky septic systems allow pollution to enter the state’s waterways, and these nutrients can contribute to harmful cyanobacteria blooms. The Department of Environmental Services supported the bill, and testified that homeowners designing their own septic systems typically caused problems, according to a Senate hearing report. An improper design could pollute groundwater, said Philip Trowbridge, a department official. 

The passage of these laws comes as the state’s cyanobacteria problem is worsening: Cyanobacterial advisory days have been trending upward since 2013, according to the Department of Environmental Services. Harmful algal blooms can negatively impact water quality and cause humans and animals to get sick. In some cases, dogs have died from swimming in water where there is a bloom.

House Bill 1066 requires the Department of Environmental Services to draft a cyanobacteria plan, with input from an advisory committee. The bill went into effect on July 1, the day it was signed.

The nonprofit NH LAKES is one organization that would serve on the committee, alongside lawmakers, state workers, environmental engineers, experts from the University of New Hampshire, veterinarians, environmental groups, and lake residents.

The group welcomed the signing of both bills, and said the funding would likely be used to compile scientific literature on cyanobacteria to guide the plan’s development, in addition to outreach and planning.

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s energy and environment reporter. She previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.