Industrial, farming, and residential by-products have increasingly degraded the quality of the Lamprey since settlers first arrived in the 1600s. Dr. C.F. Jackson, Director of the Biological Institute in Durham, attributed the rapid decline of food fish such as salmon, cod, shad, and various shellfish to industrial development beginning in 1800. In 1944, he identified factors such as erosion, siltation and sedimentation, dams, weirs, overfishing, chemical pollution, sawdust, and high coliform counts in the rivers flowing into Great Bay, and he recommended the construction of fish ladders and sewage treatment plants. The good news is that since the 1940s, the most egregious sources of pollution have been successfully addressed and the water is much cleaner than it was.
But there is still work to do. After many years of steady improvement, the river is once again facing threats of pollution. The federal Clean Water Act of 1972 originally targeted “point source pollution”, those sources that are easily traced to a pipe discharging pollutants. The Lamprey has two: the wastewater treatment facilities in Newmarket and Epping. Today, the real threat is coming from "non-point source pollution", diffuse sources such as construction sites, dumps, agricultural fields, septic systems, and road runoff. Students can research the methods and efficacy of various sewage treatment options, including the pros and cons of the micro filter system in Epping (contact Epping Conservation Commission). Students can also investigate sources of non-point pollution, using local conservation committees and the Nonpoint Source Program at NH DES as resources.
The Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership program at UNH studies trends in various environmental indicators in the Lamprey and Great Bay. Every three years, PREP produces a “State of the Estuaries Report”. These are available at http://prep.unh.edu. Great Bay has been experiencing a very troubling decline in eelgrass beds, oysters, dissolved oxygen, and an upward trend in nitrogen pollution. The worst of these indicators have left Great Bay with an “impaired” status. “Impaired” is EPA’s term for unacceptably polluted. “Impaired” not only carries a negative stigma; it also carries mandatory fines and clean-up. The Seacoast region of New Hampshire and southern Maine are now faced with cleaning up the coastal waters. The effort to address the problem requires cooperation among neighbors, towns, counties, and states. Cities with waste water treatment facilities are faced with upgrading their treatment to a very high standard, a very expensive standard for the people in those cities. The problem is not just municipal sewage, however; everyone in the Great Bay watershed is part of the problem. This issue is huge and can easily become overwhelming, but many small steps can go a long way in fixing Great Bay. How can students be part of the solution? How can they help inform others? Watch Connecting Lives on the Lamprey River for some background and ideas Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMEN_-jQeYU&feature=g-upl&context=G1040aAUAAAAAAADAA
As part of the group's consideration of pollution issues on rivers, the class can view the powerful and award-winning video We All Live Downstream. The 30-minute video discusses the Mississippi River. The film is available with a teachers' guide from The Video Project, Media for a Safe and Sustainable World, 1-800-475-2638, email@example.com
River water monitoring can be done as part of a project about pollution. Small groups working on a project can conduct tests, or the whole class can do them on a field trip to the river. The monitoring activities described in Lesson #4 of the elementary portion are equally appropriate for high school students. Additional tests, such as measuring fecal coliform, are available from the UNH Cooperative Extension. The Lamprey River Watershed Association can share its active monitoring program methods and results in class, with students attempting to explain the spikes and dips in readings at various sites and in different weather (contact Dawn Genes, firstname.lastname@example.org).