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Wolfeboro gives tour of its effluent disposal site

NHDES GROUNDWATER DISCHARGE SCIENTIST Mitch Locker answers questions on Dec. 6 as visitors touring Wolfeboro’s Rapid Infiltration Basin operations walk back down the hill. Left to right are Bill Stockman, Chairman of the Tuftonboro Board of Selectmen, Linda Murray of the Wolfeboro Board, Michael Hodder of the Wolfeboro Conservation Commission, Bob Lemaire and Locker. (Elissa Paquette photo) (click for larger version)
December 15, 2011
WOLFEBORO — Wolfeboro's Public Works Director Dave Ford had an audience of around 20 for his history and overview of the town's wastewater disposal operations at the Rapid Infiltration Basin (RIB) site off Route 109A on Tuesday morning, Dec. 6.

The town has recently applied for a renewal of its groundwater discharge permit in 2012 from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES). Those in attendance included two DES scientists, present and past members of both the Tuftonboro and Wolfeboro Conservation Commissions, selectmen from both towns and interested citizens, including State Representative David Knox.

Most have visited the site at Ford's invitation in the past. Those visits and public meetings in both towns have been a subject of interest regularly reported in the Granite State News since the RIB project went online in March 2009.

The basins, which have grown in number from three to five, are adjacent to Tuftonboro's town line, and the eventual flow and filtration of the water through the basins and down through the soils into 19 Mile Brook is tracked regularly via 11 monitoring wells.

The nitrogen and phosphorous levels are well below permitted levels, said Ford, who described the anerobic and aerobic bacteria responsible for cleaning the waste water before it heads down the pipeline to the basins. The difficulties, or "unexpected issues" that have occupied Ford and his staff, are matters of underground water flow and seepage, causing sand to drain into the brook.

Ford and his visitors trekked through the woods on both the Tuftonboro and Wolfeboro sides of the dirt road leading up to the basins to view the network of plastic piping that captures outcroppings of water from underground tributaries and guides it down the hillsides to mitigate the migration of silt. Sand traps are in place to capture sand that slides down the crevices that water has traced since the RIB system was installed.

Engineering estimates of the system's ability to handle an average of 600,000 gallons of effluent a day were originally assumed to be accurate, but according to Ford, the data collected continuously since the system has been in operation shows a different story.

The town commissioned a more thorough hydrogeological and geotechnical study of fluid flows and has an operations assistant on site almost daily to look for new sinkholes and outcroppings of water and maintain a photographic record.

Ford explained that experience with the system, the scientific studies, and data collection led the town to determine that the RIB system can not handle Wolfeboro's 140 million gallon yearly production of treated effluent, so the town applied for and received a permit to reopen the spray irrigation fields.

The good news regarding the spray irrigation fields is that even with only 40 acres receiving the treated effluent compared to the original 100 acres, there is no runoff. The fields are capable of handling their necessary 20 million gallon share of the effluent disposal.

At the conclusion of the tour, Ford said he appreciated the Tuftonboro Conservation Commission for providing a set of "critical eyes" throughout the process. "That's the only way to get better," he added.

Data on the RIB site is available on the Tuftonboro Web site and the Wolfeboro Web site as well, and hard copies of recent studies are available at the Wolfeboro Public Library.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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