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New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

Media Center

DATE: December 10, 2012
CONTACT: Chris Nash, NHDES 603-568-6741
Tim Bridges, US EPA, 617-918-8603

Piscataqua River Dye Study at Peirce Island Scheduled for December 11

Portsmouth, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s New England Regional Laboratory, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Maine Department of Marine Resources and the City of Portsmouth will begin conducting a dye tracing study on Tuesday, December 11. They will be tracking the flow and dispersion of water in the Piscataqua River from the City of Portsmouth wastewater treatment facility on Peirce Island, upstream into the Great Bay area, New Hampshire, as well as downstream in the Piscataqua River through Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Kittery, Maine.

Information from this study will be used by DES to determine what areas in the Lower Piscataqua River may be suitable for recreational shellfish harvest and for commercial shellfish aquaculture, while still protecting public health. Rhodamine WT dye will be released early in the morning of December 11 from the Portsmouth wastewater treatment facility on Peirce Island for a period of approximately 12 hours.  As a result of the injection, portions of the Piscataqua River may turn reddish in color for a brief time through the communities of Portsmouth, New Castle, Rye, and Kittery; however, the dye is not harmful to people or the ecosystem. 

The addition of dye to the treated wastewater effluent is intended to simulate conditions that may result in the rare instance of a treatment breakdown at the facility. Measurements of dye dilution and transport in the river can then be used to identify areas that may be at a higher level of risk for contamination.  Similar studies have been conducted previously at the wastewater treatment facilities in Dover, Durham, Exeter, Newmarket, Hampton, Seabrook, Newfields, and Kittery, Maine. For more information about the study, please contact Chris Nash, DES Shellfish Program at 603-568-6741.

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