Disc Debacle

Biofilm Chips
Concerned beach lovers have been scouring a 40 mile stretch of coast after an overflow at the Hooksett, NH Waste Water Treatment Facility released an estimated 4 to 8 million plastic discs into the Merrimack River on March 6th, 2011.

The discs are used in the water waste system to give helpful bacteria a place to sit and help break down sewage. Unfortunately, there was no alarm system in place to alert anyone about the overflow and it was not until 4 days later that the situation was discovered. Had it not been for the discs, the overflow may not have been discovered at all.


NH Surfrider Foundation, Blue Ocean Society and local surf shops were the first to report the findings and organize clean ups. Crews have been collecting them by the hundreds. Last Saturday's emergency cleanup in Hampton, NH was no exception.

Andrew digging deep

At first glance it seemed challenging to find a disc but then we would happen upon a mass of seaweed in between the rocks and find over 10 in a matter of seconds. We searched until the supermoon, high tide had us up against the wall. No doubt, as we scrambled to find a few more, the sea was getting ready to deposit a fresh batch.

in the seaweed
Sure enough, after this morning's surf, I found 15 within a 15 minute timeframe. As I sifted through the seaweed I couldn't help but notice the discs co-mingling with so many other little plastic friends. Still, there is a satisfying feeling with each one found. Something tells me we will be seeing many more in days to come.

Additional information can be found here:
Kruger wins IFAS contract in Hooksett, New Hampshire »
New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services »
NH Surfrider Foundation »
Blue Ocean Society »


Hannah Katarski said...

Oh wow. That's terrible! Amazing clean up effort though!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

We will be seeing many more for years to

Johna said...

We found over three thousand of them over Easter weekend up at Salisbury Beach. See post here ».

Johna said...

I have written a recent letter to Kruger (the company that manufactures the discs) with some follow-up questions that I am grappling with. I have not heard back yet but here is what I asked:

- Is there a safeguard that should have prevented the discs from being discharged in an overflow situation? (I struggle with this one the most because it seems like this is a scenario that would be anticipated and planned for).

- Does Kruger think that the Hooksett disaster could have been prevented in terms of the discs being released? If so, how?

- What does Kruger recommend as a safeguard against this sort of thing happening, in general?

- Have any system/process changes been made since the Hooksett overflow? In other words, were there lessons learned from that situation that changed the way this treatment plan is put into operation?

I will update this comment if I hear anything.

Johna said...

There is now a google map that allows people to track disc findings. Pretty interesting stuff. Post your findings to the map: Check out the map here.

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